Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination. Title VII, however, prohibits only the types of discrimination identified in the statute, including race discrimination, sex discrimination, religious discrimination, and national origin discrimination. For nearly two decades, the prevailing view from the country’s federal courts, including New York’s federal appellate court (the Second Circuit), was that Title VII does not prohibit workplace discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation. On February 26, 2018, the Second Circuit became the second federal circuit court to reverse its prior precedent and hold that Title VII does indeed prohibit sexual orientation discrimination. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. decision.
The Background of Zarda and Sexual Orientation Discrimination Law in New York
Zarda stems from an employer’s termination of a sky-diving instructor from Long Island in 2010, soon after the employee disclosed his sexual orientation. The District Court and then the Second Circuit initially ruled against the sky-diving instructor, holding that the Courts’ prior decisions interpreting Title VII required ruling that Title VII’s prohibitions do not include sexual orientation discrimination.