The U.S. Department of Justice under Donald Trump is hoping to eliminate protections for individuals who are fired because of their sexual orientation during proceedings in a Manhattan court case.
In the case, Zarda v. Altitude Express Inc., Donald Zarda claimed he was fired from Altitude Express, Inc. after he told a client he was gay, hoping to make her “feel less awkward” being strapped to him during their tandem skydive. The woman’s husband complained to Altitude Express and Zarda was fired.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from being discriminated against in the workplace based on their “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Recently, a court of appeals in Chicago and another based in Indiana protected LGBTQ workers under the 1964 law. Yet, in March an Atlanta court dismissed a case, Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, saying that Title VII only protects against discrimination or misconduct between women and men in the workplace, not based on sexuality.
The Zarda case is critical because it’s the first time the justice department of justice has been actively involved in trying to eliminate protections for sexual orientation at work. LGBTQ rights groups also say that Zarda’s case may further divide federal appeals courts on the issue, likely leaving it to U.S. Supreme Court to decide.
Zarda’s lawyer Gregory Antollino has said that the department is making the same arguments the Supreme Court rejected in cases involving discrimination against workers in interracial relationships.
Evans’ lawyers requested this month that the Supreme Court hear her case after it was dismissed.
The Zarda estate, which is taking the case to court after Zarda was killed in a BASE jump after filing, is being backed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces Title VII. The EEOC has argued several times over the past five years that Title VII protects against LGBTQ worker discrimination, but has only won once.