The EEOC's recent ruling in Baldwin v. Dep't of Transportation, EEOC Appeal No. 0120133080, 2015 WL 4397641 (July 16, 2015) represents another significant victory in the hard-fought battle for the rights of the LGBT community. This groundbreaking decision is the first of its kind to find that claims of discrimination based on "sexual orientation" may be brought under Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964.
The case arose after a man in Florida alleged that his employer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) repeatedly failed to promote him to a frontline manager position because he is an openly gay man. Although the EEOC has not yet issued a decision on the merits of the discrimination claim, the July 10, 2015 decision held that the FAA is required to process Mr. Baldwin's complaint of discrimination based on his sexual orientation, stating: "[s]exual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee's sex," thereby creating an entitlement to protection under Title VII.
This ruling directly impacts federal employees because it applies to all federal agencies. In short, this decision affords federal employees the immediate right to be free from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Many believe that the next step in LGBT rights will involve federal courts' similar interpretation of Title VII to include prohibition of sexual orientation discrimination in the private sector but, at present, those waters remain uncharted.
Mr. Baldwin's case represents a significant step forward for the LGBT community and for federal employees. If you believe that your federal employer has subjected you to discrimination based on your sexual orientation, you should immediately contact a federal employment attorney who will assist you in determining your rights under this changing area of the law.