Matthew Christiansen, a gay man, sued his employer based on his allegation that his supervisor engaged in a pattern of harassment targeting his sexual orientation and nonconformity with sex stereotypes. A federal district court in New York dismissed his lawsuit based on precedent holding that Title VII, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace, does not protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The district court criticized earlier decisions excluding gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees from Title VII’s protection, but concluded it was bound by precedent. Christiansen appealed.
NCLR filed an amicus brief in support of Christiansen in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The brief argued that the court’s earlier decisions excluding LGBTQ workers from Title VII’s protections had led to unfair and inconsistent treatment of job discrimination claims brought by LGBTQ workers, because it is impossible, logically or practically, to separate discrimination based on LGBTQ status from other forms of sex discrimination.
The Second Circuit panel concluded it was bound by precedent holding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but held that Christiansen should have been allowed to proceed on his claim that he was discriminated against based on his gender nonconformity. In a separate concurring opinion, Chief Judge Katzman urged the full Second Circuit to rehear the case en banc and reconsider its precedents precluding workers from bringing Title VII sex discrimination claims based on sexual orientation discrimination.
NCLR, joined by GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, filed an amicus brief urging the full Second Circuit to rehear the case en banc. In June 2017, the Second Circuit denied the request for rehearing en banc.