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New DOJ brief: Gay workers are not protected

In a reversal of Department of Justice policy, a new direction under the Trump administration has become clear leaving Florida workers in the LGBT community on edge. As Business Insider reports, a briefing filed by the DOJ states that the position of the department is that workers are not protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts for their sexual orientations.

The 1964 law bans discrimination in the workplace "based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin," and under the Obama administration, the DOJ said that gender identity and sexual orientation were covered under the prohibition of discrimination for one's sex. The brief submitted to the court was in response to a case where a skydiving instructor claimed he was fired for being gay. The case, Zarda v. Altitude Express, is currently on appeal in the Second Circuit, which ruled in a previous case that sexual orientation was not covered by Title VII. Other federal appeals courts have found differently, however. The Seventh Circuit ruled in April that sexual orientation is protected, so until the Supreme Court takes on this issue or the law is clarified by Congress, LGBT employees have murky rights.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also been openly defiant, interpreting discrimination against an employee for his or her sexual orientation as a violation of the law. These conflicting viewpoints play out across state lines as well. According to Fast Company, employees can be fired for being gay or transgender in Florida and 27 other states. With same-sex marriage legal across the country, in more than half of the states in the nation an employee could be fired for taking advantage of that right, and the question of whether or not that is a legal action is very uncertain at this point.

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