As the 50th anniversary of Title VII approaches, Professor Suzanne Goldberg spoke on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employment discrimination and how it relates to the Civil Rights Act at the February 26 Littler Mendelson Employment and Labor Law Lecture hosted by Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
Goldberg, the Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, discussed how Title VII fails to offer protection to LGBT individuals during her presentation, "21st Century Employment Discrimination: LGBT Employees and New Perspectives on Workplace Law."
"There is no federal law that explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification," explained Goldberg. "It remains perfectly legal to fire someone based on sexual orientation and gender identification in 29 states."
Several states have passed laws that protect LGBT individuals from employment discrimination over the past 30 years. With many cities and companies offering additional protection from discrimination, the result is a complex set of laws and regulations to dissect. Goldberg believes additional legislation is needed, citing several studies that show LGBT employees face widespread discrimination and sexual harassment.
Independent of changes in to the federal law, Goldberg does not see the issue of LGBT discrimination subsiding in the near future.
"We live in a society that reinforces sex differences all the time," said Goldberg. "At the root of much of the discomfort with LGBT individuals is our society's discomfort with gender, fostering the need to reinforce gender roles and stereotypes."
Goldberg is a leading national expert in employment law related to sexuality and gender. At Columbia, Goldberg also co-directs the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law and founded and directs the Sexuality and Gender Law Clinic, the first of its kind in the nation. Her co-authored book, Strangers to the Law: Gay People on Trial, has been hailed for capturing the cultural, political and legal context of the gay rights movement in the 1990s through the lens of the Romer v. Evans trial. Previously, she worked as a senior attorney with Lambda Legal, an organization specializing in protecting the rights of LGBT individuals and people with HIV/AIDS.
Goldberg's discussion was part of the Cleveland-Marshall Employment and Labor Law Series, where nationally recognized scholars and/or practitioners present in the fields of employment and labor law.