Second Circuit Holds Title VII Prohibits Sexual Orientation Discrimination

On March 1, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held in Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. that sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is the second such decision in the last year, with the Seventh Circuit reaching the same conclusion in 2017. The two decisions holding that sexual orientation discrimination is indeed discrimination based on sex are in conflict with an Eleventh Circuit decision reaching the opposite conclusion, and make clear that this issue is ripe for review by the United States Supreme Court.

Although a near-majority of states outlaw sexual orientation discrimination via their state fair-employment laws, under the federal law there is no clear consensus. In recent years there has been a growing trend to bring sex-related issues within the purview of Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on sex, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has prosecuted cases wherein plaintiffs were victims of discrimination based on their sexual orientation. That said, last week’s decision is a landmark for proponents of equality, and should have far-reaching implications in the coming months.

Clarity on the Issue

The Supreme Court declined to review this issue for the current term when there were just two circuits split in authority, but now that more Court of Appeals decisions are coming down there is a clear need for clarity on the issue. Although the Supreme Court is extremely unpredictable in its decision making, there has been a clear trend toward including sexual orientation within the protection afforded by Title VII in the district courts (as well as the aforementioned state laws).

If you are an employer who has yet to institute a policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, now would be a good time to do so, regardless of your jurisdiction’s current position on the issue. In addition to the legality of the issue, it is simply good practice to be more inclusive than the law on issues of discrimination and harassment. For that reason, now may be a good time to train your employees on issues of sex-based discrimination that they may not traditionally associate with their view of “sex discrimination” and what exactly that term means.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance), and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of harassment, discrimination and other employment law issues your organization may face. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.

 


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


Written by, Jon Gonzalez, Esq., Chief Counsel for Syntrio

 

#MeToo Allegation Spurs South Korean Actor’s Suicide

Jon Min-ki, a South Korean actor best known for his roles on a variety of television shows was found dead at this morning. According to multiple news outlets, the cause of death appears to be suicide. Min-ki, who was perhaps best known known for his role in 2013’s The Attorney, had recently been accused of molesting multiple students at Cheongju University, where he had been teaching.

Following the harassment allegations Min-ki lost his role as a professor and was edited out of several television shows he had filmed. Min-ki’s death is the latest incident highlighting a rash of harassment allegations sweeping Asia in recent months and shows that the harassment problem goes far beyond what we are experiencing in the United States.

Sexual harassment has become such a pervasive issue that there [rightly] is a massive stigma attached to an allegation. Given the seriousness of events such as Min-ki’s suicide it is extremely important that we take all steps possible to create a culture that is inclusive of thought and reduces the potential for these types of incidents. There are no excuses for sexual harassment, but perhaps with greater awareness we could prevent both incidents like these and the resulting depression and suicide that is associated with high-profile harassment allegations.

It is easy to forget the consequences for perpetrators of sexual harassment, as we [correctly] focus first on the victims. But incidents such as Min-ki’s death highlight the pervasiveness of the problem, and the impact it has on those who commit horrible acts of harassment. As awareness of harassment grows we need to focus on truly changing culture so that we not only eliminate victimization of co-workers, but also reduce the potential for life-ending consequences of someone’s actions.

By teaching our employees the importance of acting respectfully in the workplace we can hopefully get a handle on the severe sexual harassment problem, both domestically and abroad. No employee deserves to work in an environment where harassment is tolerated, and the onus should be on companies to promote environments of tolerance so that those who have a propensity to commit such acts are identified and dealt with appropriately before their actions rise to the level of harassment. Had this been the case at the Cheongju University perhaps Min-ki would not have taken his own life.

Syntrio is a leader in the human resources and employment law fields (as well as ethics and compliance) and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of conflicts of interest within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards employment law training program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content.


Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our discrimination, harassment, and prevention of retaliation online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on corporate compliance that impact your company.


Written by, Jon Gonzalez, Esq., Chief Counsel for Syntrio