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Two circuits agree: Sexual orientation is a protected class

| Feb 28, 2018 | Employment Law for Employees |

Certain personal factors about people may not be used to discriminate against them in the workplace, and these personal factors are codified in specific federal and New York state laws. For example, under the Americans with Disabilities Act most employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees and prospective employees because of their mental and physical disabilities. Laws protect people from discrimination based on their age, race and religious preferences as well.

Some questions have apparently existed, though, as to whether a person’s sexual orientation was a protected classification. In 2010 a skydiving instructor was fired after he disclosed to one of his customers that he was gay and the customer complained to the skydiving instructor’s employer.

The matter made its way to the to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York where by a ten to three vote the judges ruled in favor of the skydiving instructor. The 2nd Circuit is the second appellate court at the federal level to rule that sexual orientation is a protected classification under Title VII to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals having come to the same conclusion last year.

At this time it is unknown if this case will be appealed against, at which point it would be elevated to the United States Supreme Court. Any ruling at that level would have national consequences; however, though, employees in New York and the rest of the 2nd Circuit jurisdiction can feel protected in their right to be free of sexual orientation discrimination when they are at their jobs.

Source:, “Court: Civil Rights Law protects claims of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Ariane de Vogue, Feb. 27, 2018