Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of our nation's main civil rights law. Among other things, it prohibits covered employers from discriminating in any aspect of employment based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Questions have arisen over time, however, about the breadth of the law's coverage when it comes to sex. Is it illegal to discriminate based on homosexuality? Against someone who doesn't comply with sexual stereotypes? Against transgender people?
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination "because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." In 2015, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Young v. United Parcel Service, Inc., that employers must offer accommodations to pregnant employees that are at least equivalent to those provided to employees with disabilities.
The New York Times has published a prominent report on pregnancy discrimination in America's workforce. Reporters interviewed dozens of women who claim to have suffered pregnancy discrimination, along with their lawyers and a number of government officials. They also reviewed thousands of pages of public records and court documents. They identified a clear pattern of systemic discrimination at many of our nation's biggest and most prestigious companies.
Recently, two African-American businessmen were waiting for a colleague in a Philadelphia Starbucks. At one point, one of the men asked to use the restroom but was refused because they hadn't purchased anything. An employee, apparently concerned that they were loitering, asked them to leave. They refused the police were called. Several officers arrived and, although the men's story checked out, handcuffed the men and removed them from the premises.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King., Jr., described the "Other America" in one of his final speeches. He talked about the "fatigue of despair" for African-Americans who continue to be left out despite making significant economic and educational progress. Fifty years later, according to the Associated Press, a huge number of African-Americans find themselves underemployed and largely locked out of the highest-paying fields.
The EEOC recently settled a case against Estée Lauder, which had provided six weeks of child-bonding parental leave to "primary caregivers" but only two weeks to "secondary caregivers." The agency said that the policy -- as administered -- discriminated against men. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act both prohibit gender-based discrimination in pay or benefits.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit has just ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. It reasoned that since Title VII prohibits discrimination based on gender, it must also ban such discrimination based on sexual orientation because sexual orientation is fundamentally a function of gender.