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?
"Although Title VII was passed more than 50 years ago, women nationwide continue to be passed over for promotion because of their sex," says one EEOC regional attorney.
The prestigious Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) recently published an exposé on how women are treated in the field of photojournalism, and the results are stark. Women across the industry said that sexual harassment and misconduct are routine and broadly tolerated by those in power. At least two well-known male photographers are also well-known serial harassers, for example, and their company has long stonewalled complaints.
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.
On August 4, 2016, a Washington D.C. jury ordered Chipotle, the popular Mexican restaurant chain, to pay $550,000 for discriminating against a former employee due to her pregnancy. The plaintiff in the case, Doris Garcia Hernandez, was fired after enduring months of discriminatory acts at work.
According to a Maryland county, it rejected an application by a former U.S. Capitol Police officer to serve in its volunteer mounted patrol because she lives too far away and is overqualified. Besides, Howard County argued, they don’t allow retired cops in the volunteer patrol.
This week was a historic week in professional sports. NBA center Jason Collins came out as gay, becoming the first male professional athlete to do so. The NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL all ban sexual orientation discrimination in their leagues, but nonetheless no one has felt comfortable coming out publicly until Collins.
Under both Maryland law and federal employment law, pregnancy discrimination is illegal. While these anti-discrimination laws are very clear, a gray area has recently emerged. Several Christian employers have recently been accused of firing unwed pregnant women from their staffs. The firings are blamed on a breach of contract--these employees had signed contracts that stated they would abide by Christian values, including abstaining from premarital sex.