LGBTQ Workers Win State-Level Protection in Texas

March 15, 2021 by Reece Nations
LGBTQ Workers Win State-Level Protection in Texas
The Texas State Capital in Austin, Texas. (Photo via Wikipedia Commons)

DALLAS — Texas’ Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in favor of a former Tarrant County College District employee who claimed she was fired from her job after disclosing her sexual orientation to a supervisor.

Amanda Sims alleged in her discrimination suit against the district that she was fired after she revealed she is lesbian to her supervisor and coworkers when she served as a member of a TCCD committee addressing diversity issues, according to the text of the ruling. 

Sims said she began experiencing hostile treatment from the supervisor, who “expressed religious views that held homosexuals in a negative light,” following the revelation. Sims had received above-average performance evaluations throughout her three-year employment with TCCD, at one point even receiving the “Chancellor’s Excellence Award” for her work. 

“The Texas 5th Circuit Court of Appeals made the right decision today — legally and morally,” Jason N. Smith, Sims’ lead attorney, said in a written statement. “It has been an honor to work on this case and fight on behalf of LGBTQ Texans. It’s an honor to represent someone as courageous as Amanda Sims, whose stand against discrimination has resulted in statewide employment protections for LGBTQ Texans.” 

The court ruled that Sims’ complaint could be brought under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, or TCHRA, although the state’s constitution does not protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Further, while Texas labor codes on unlawful employment practices do prohibit discrimination based on sex they make no specific mention of sexual orientation. 

In January, the Human Rights Campaign filed an amicus brief to the court on Sims’ behalf. The organization, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy groups, was represented in the brief and in oral arguments by Winston & Strawn LLP. 

“Today, we celebrate this landmark decision alongside the Texas LGBTQ community — who, for far too long, have had to enter the workplace in fear of facing discrimination for who they are,” Alphonso David, president of The Human Rights Campaign, said in a written statement. 

“I applaud the plaintiff, Amanda Sims, for her bravery and our legal partners for their impressive work. Let this ruling stand as a beacon of hope to the other states in the United States that are still fighting for basic state-wide non-discrimination protections.”

In its appeal, TCCD argued Sims’ claim of “being discriminated against on the basis of her sex and gender stereotyping” was indeed “covered under the TCHRA,” but no Texas court had ruled whether the TCHRA protected her “status of sexual orientation.” 

Because no Texas court had yet addressed whether the statute could be interpreted as prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, the court looked for a federal precedent to base its ruling on. In June 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion affirming LGBTQ workers’ protections in the case Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. 

In its ruling, the Supreme Court reasoned the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses broad prohibitions on discrimination, concluding “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” 

The appeals court ruled to reconcile interpretations of the TCHRA with federal anti-discrimination and retaliation law under the Bostock ruling. The court, therefore, ruled that the law prohibiting discrimination based on sex also applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation, marking a significant milestone for LGBTQ advocacy groups. 

“We are proud to have worked alongside the dedicated litigation team at The Human Rights Campaign throughout the duration of this appeals process and could not be more satisfied with the court’s opinion,” Natalie Arbaugh, partner at Winston & Strawn, said in a written statement. “The law is clear — the Bostock ruling must be applied in every state without explicit non-discrimination statutes, just as it was today in Texas.”

A+
a-
  • Employment
  • Fifth Circuit
  • LGBTQ
  • Texas
  • In The News

    Health

    Voting

    In The States

    After Rare Flash Flood Emergency, Florida Prepares for More Heavy Rainfall in Coming Days

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A tropical disturbance has brought a rare flash flood emergency to much of southern Florida... Read More

    FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A tropical disturbance has brought a rare flash flood emergency to much of southern Florida as residents prepared to weather more heavy rainfall on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday's downpours and subsequent flooding blocked roads, floated vehicles and delayed the Florida Panthers on their... Read More

    Baltimore's Busy Port Fully Reopens After Bridge Collapse, and a Return to Normal Is Expected

    BALTIMORE (AP) — Authorities anticipate commercial shipping traffic through the Port of Baltimore will soon return to normal levels after... Read More

    BALTIMORE (AP) — Authorities anticipate commercial shipping traffic through the Port of Baltimore will soon return to normal levels after the channel fully reopened this week for the first time since the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse. “They are back open for business, ready to bring... Read More

    Gov. Jay Inslee Says Washington Will Make Clear Hospitals Must Provide Emergency Abortions

    SEATTLE (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said Washington will spell out in state law that hospitals must provide... Read More

    SEATTLE (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday said Washington will spell out in state law that hospitals must provide abortions if needed to stabilize patients, a step that comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on whether conservative states can bar abortions... Read More

    June 11, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    DC to Open Final Application Period for Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

    WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia will open what it is calling the “final” application period for medical cannabis license... Read More

    WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia will open what it is calling the “final” application period for medical cannabis license applications on July 1. In all, 33 retail licenses and two internet licenses will be available to non-social equity applicants, with the application period slated to... Read More

    June 11, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    Ohio Awards $5.4M in Energy Efficiency Grants

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Development has awarded $5.4 million in grants to support energy efficiency projects in... Read More

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Development has awarded $5.4 million in grants to support energy efficiency projects in five counties across the state.  Six organizations across five counties are receiving awards for energy efficiency retrofits, LED lighting, solar power upgrades, weather sealing, windows and... Read More

    June 10, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    Feds, Maryland Sign MOU on Offshore Wind Development

    ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state... Read More

    ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state of Maryland to support the coordinated development of offshore wind energy generation. Under the terms of the agreement, which was signed last week, the agency and... Read More

    News From The Well
    scroll top