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DOJ reversal: LGBT employees are not protected

A recent change in the position being taken by the Department of Justice could leave some Florida employees vulnerable to termination. As Business Insider reports, the DOJ has filed a briefing arguing that sexual orientation is not protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects against workplace discrimination.

This is a reversal from the position the Obama administration took, which was that employees are not to be discriminated against based on their "race, color, religion, sex and national origin," understanding sex to include both an employee's sexual orientation and gender identity. Federal appeals courts have not come to any sort of consensus on this issue in the past, and the brief filed by the DOJ in the case Zarda v. Altitude Express is currently in the U.S. Second Circuit Court, which ruled in a previous case that sexual orientation was not considered a protected class. However, the Seventh Circuit Court ruled that discriminating against an employee based on his or her sexual orientation does violate the law.

Until the laws are clarified by the legislature or the Supreme Court, LGBT employees across the country are living by varying sets of rules. As Fast Company reports, although same sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, an employee could be fired for being gay in 28 states, including in Florida. There is also a patchwork of laws across the country working to both expand and restrict the laws regarding workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation--sometimes bills from both sides of the debate are being considered in the same state. This makes understanding one's rights in the workplace a very confusing situation for members of the LGBT community.

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