A former security guard who says she was fired by Georgia Regional Hospital for being gay asked a federal appeals court to hear her case since a lower court dismissed her complaint without even holding a hearing.
Jameka K. Evans, with the help of Lambda Legal, appealed her case to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the court to reverse a lower court ruling that threw out her complaint. On Thursday, Lambda Legal asked the appeals court to recognize that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of discrimination covered until Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.
“Nationwide, employers of LGBT people are still ignoring the many rulings of the EEOC and federal district courts across the country specifically holding that allegations of sexual orientation discrimination in the form of gender stereotyping may be brought under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Greg Nevins (second photo), an attorney with Lambda Legal's office in Atlanta, said in a prepared statement.
“The EEOC made it plain just last year in Baldwin v. Foxx that sexual orientation discrimination ‘necessarily’ is sex discrimination. Georgia Regional Hospital targeted Jameka Evans for harassment and eventually termination because she is a lesbian. It is time for employers to recognize that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination, and is unlawful,” Nevins added.
Evans sued in April and alleged that supervisors at Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah, where she worked as a security guard from August 2012 to October 2013, harassed her and targeted her for termination when they learned she is a lesbian. When she complained to officials at the facility, Evans says her supervisors retaliated.
“I was targeted by [Chief Charles] Moss for termination due to the fact that I do not carry myself in a traditional woman manner,” Evans wrote. “I am a gay female. I did not broadcast my sexuality. Although it is evident I identify with the male gender because I presented myself visually (male uniform, low male haircut, shoes, etc.)”
But in September, U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith ruled that sexual orientation is not a protected class under Title VII and dismissed Evans' complaint with prejudice.
“Finally, to say that an employer has discriminated on the basis of gender non-conformity is just another way to claim discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Smith wrote. “To inflict an adverse employment action (unfair discipline, denied promotion, etc.) because a male is too effeminate or a female too masculine is to discriminate based on sexual orientation (“gender nonconformity”), which is reflected in the gender image one presents to others – that of a male, even if one is biologically a female.”
On Thursday, Lambda argued in its brief filed with the appeals court that Evans is due her day in court.
For years, Lambda Legal has been explaining to courts that Title VII, when properly understood, protects LGBT employees. Three of Lambda Legal’s successful efforts in 2014, in federal courts in Seattle, Chicago, and Washington D.C., were cited by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx. In September, Lambda Legal appeared before the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Kim Hively, a college instructor fired from her job for being a lesbian whose similar Title VII claim was also dismissed by a federal district court in Indiana.
Evans said her job at Georgia Regional helped her pay for school.
“I worked hard at Georgia Regional Hospital because I needed that job to help me pay for school,” Evans said in a prepared statement. “It's not fair that I could be forced out of my job because my supervisor doesn't like that I am a lesbian and I don't look like how he thinks a woman should look. I just want my day in court. I just want my day in court.”
[top photo via Lambda Legal]