Tuesday, February 27, 2018

2nd Circuit En Banc: Title VII Covers Sexual Orientation Discrimination

In a 10-3 en banc decision yesterday, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning prior 2nd Circuit precedent, held that "sexual orientation discrimination constitutes a form of discrimination 'because of . . . sex,' in violation of Title VII" of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  In Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc., (2d Cir., Feb. 26, 2018), Chief Judge Katzmann filed the majority opinion which concluded that (1) sexual orientation discrimination is motivated in part by sex and thus is a subset of sex discrimination; (2) sexual orientation discrimination involves gender stereotyping; and (3) sexual orientation discrimination involves associational discrimination.  Only four other judges joined this opinion in full.

Judge Pooler, without a separate opinion, joined the gender stereotyping and associational discrimination rationales.  In concurring opinions, Judge Jacobs and Judge Sack agreed only with the associational discrimination approach.  Judge Cabranes concurred only in the judgment, saying sexual orientation is a function of sex.  Judge Lohier concurred on the basis of the majority's textualist approach.
Judges Lynch, Livingston and Raggi dissented based largely on legislative history and the intent of the drafters of Title VII. 

In the case, the Justice Department and the EEOC had filed amicus briefs taking opposite positions from each other.  (See prior posting.)  AP reports on the decision. [Thanks to Tom Rutledge for the lead.]