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The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to reconsider a ruling in which an appeals court held Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, in a case filed by a lesbian former hospital security guard.
The high court issued its denial of certiorari in Jameka K. Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital on Monday. The decision not to hear the case came as a surprise because of conflicting appellate court rulings on the issue, said Mark T. Phillis, a shareholder with Littler Mendelson P.C. in Pittsburgh.
Ms. Evans claimed in her lawsuit she was denied equal pay or work, harassed and physically assaulted or battered while at her job at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled against her in March, then subsequently refused to consider the case en banc.
Experts have predicted the issue of whether Title VII covers sexual discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation would eventually be heard by the Supreme Court because of the conflicting appellate court rulings.
In April, in a ground-breaking ruling, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago held in Kimberly Hively v. Ivey Tech Community College that sexual orientation is protected under Title VII.
Other cases on the issue include Melissa Zarda et al. v. Altitude Express, where Donald Zarda, a gay skydiver, sued his former employer, Calverton, New York-based Altitude Express Inc., alleging he was fired from his job as a skydiving instruction because of his sexual orientation.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said it did not have the authority to overturn circuit precedent on the issue in April, but the appeals court agreed to hear the case en banc in May.
On March 27, in Anonymous, Matthew Christiansen v. Unicom Group et al., a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit ruled in favor of a gay plaintiff — but on the basis of gender stereotyping discrimination, not because of sexual orientation. The court has also agreed to reconsider that case en banc.
The Supreme Court “may be waiting to see what the other courts of appeal do with cases that are currently pending,” said Mr. Phillis.
He said, however, it is “somewhat of a surprise” the court did not agree to take the case. While there have been other instances where there have been appellate court splits and the Supreme Court did not take a case immediately, “given the strong ruling from the 7th Circuit” observers “believed the court would try to resolve this at this time,” Mr. Phillis said.
In a ground-breaking ruling, an en banc 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago held Tuesday that sexual orientation is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.