Simply being gay, lesbian or bisexual is reason enough to be fired in some places in the US; a reality that a lesbian security guard is fighting to change.
Supported by Lambda Legal, Jameka Evans (pictured) has asked the US Supreme Court to hear her case and to decide once and for all whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects LGB individuals from discrimination on the job.
Evans, a Savannah security guard, was harassed at work and forced from her job because she is a lesbian. Her petition to the court seeks a nationwide ruling that sexual orientation discrimination violates Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination.
Currently, there is no federal law that specifically protects LGBTQ individuals from employment discrimination; there are no state laws in 28 states that explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 30 states that do so based on gender identity.
On Thursday, the attorneys general of 17 states and the District of Columbia joined Evan’s campaign and argued in a court brief that federal protection from sexual orientation discrimination is critical for LGB people from states without explicit protections.
“We are grateful that so many attorneys general have joined the mighty chorus calling for the Supreme Court to review Jameka’s case and protect LGBT people from discrimination at work,” commented Greg Nevins, Employment Fairness Project Director for Lambda Legal.
“It’s unacceptable for an employee to be discriminated against based on sexual orientation – and it’s high time that’s clear across the country,” added New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “Who a person loves has nothing to do with their ability to do their job.”
Another “friend of the court” brief signed by 76 major US companies supporting Evans was also filed with the court. The companies, representing over 1.1 million employees and $678 billion in revenue, include the likes of Airbnb, Apple, Deutsche Bank, Estée Lauder, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Starbucks.
“These companies are sending a powerful message to LGBTQ workers and their families that America’s leading businesses believe in equality,” said HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow.
“Across the country, corporate leaders are speaking out because they know attacking LGBTQ employees isn’t just shameful — it also puts the families of their employees and customers at risk. LGBTQ people like Jameka are entitled to the full protection of the law, and must be affirmed, respected and protected in their workplace and beyond.”
Evans, who worked at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah, was physically assaulted, harassed and denied equal pay and equal work because she is a lesbian.
“I remember on breaks just going into work closets and crying because I was so stressed out” from the harassment, Evans said. “I took the stress home with me every day. I didn’t sleep well. And I dreaded going to work.”
In April 2015, she filed a lawsuit against her former employer but her case has been repeatedly rejected because the courts have stated that federal law doesn’t protect her or other LGB employees.