ST. PETERSBURG, FL — A record number of businesses are taking a stand for workplace nondiscrimination protections, via a brief filed today in Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital. The case concerns Jameka Evans, a Georgia security guard who faced extreme harassment, was denied equal pay, and ultimately lost her job – all because of her sexual orientation.
“Florida businesses are some of the nation’s pioneers in supporting equality for LGBTQ people, and we are proud to see our state’s strong representation on this historic brief,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s Chief Executive Officer. “No one should have to worry that their livelihood will be at stake based in prejudice, not job performance. The business community continues to deliver the clear message that securing workplace protections makes smart business sense and, more importantly, is simply the right thing to do.”
Signers to the brief include AirBnB, Apple, Ben & Jerry’s, Carnival Cruise, Deutsche Bank, Eastern Bank, Google, Levi Strauss & Co., LinkedIn, Lyft, Mastercard, Miami Heat, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, PayPal, RBC Bank, Salesforce, Starbucks, Tampa Bay Rays, Trillium Asset Management, and Viacom. A full list of signers is available here.
“The HEAT are long-time supporters of equality for LGBTQ Floridians, and it’s for a very simple reason: we believe the diversity of our communities makes us stronger,” said Eric Woolworth, Miami HEAT President. “There’s no excuse for discrimination of any kind. We’ll continue to promote values of inclusion, respect, and equality – and we’ll continue standing up and speaking out when we see others in need. It’s long past time to ensure our state and national laws protect LGBTQ people from harassment and discrimination.”
“We believe in treating every person we come into contact with– whether it’s our employees, our consumers, or our vendors – with dignity and respect,” said Anna Walker, Senior Director for Global Policy and Advocacy at Levi Strauss & Co. “That value is central to our business – but more importantly, it’s the right thing to do. Discrimination hurts people, holds back communities, and tarnishes our nation’s image. We’ve long made nondiscrimination a bedrock value of our corporate culture, and we’re proud to support those same values in our legislatures, in the halls of Congress, and before the nation’s highest court.”
Lambda Legal is representing Evans, and earlier this fall urged the nation’s highest court to hear the case. A district court in Georgia – and later the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals – denied Jameka nondiscrimination protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination in the workplace based on sex.
But other courts have affirmed that sexual orientation is covered under Title VII: earlier this year, the entire 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Kimberly Hively, who was fired from her job as a teacher because she is a lesbian; and reversed that court’s prior precedent that Title VII did not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. And just last month, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals heard en banc the case of a skydiving instructor, Don Zarda, who lost his job after his employers discovered he was gay.
The brief notes:
“Employment discrimination based on sexual orientation (a form of sex-based discrimination) is widespread and has significant, harmful effects on employers, employees, and the bottom line. As of 2016, approximately 10 million adults in the United States (4.1% of all adults) identify as LGBT. By any measure, the LGBT segment of the U.S. workforce represents a significant number of both public- and private-sector employees. Businesses draw on and benefit from the contributions of LGBT workers at all levels and across industries.
“…. Amici recognize that their employees are essential to their success and are, in many ways, their most valuable assets. Accordingly, amici are strong proponents of anti-discrimination laws and policies, which are linked to higher morale and productivity.”