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Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc. - 883 F.3d 100 (2d Cir. 2018)

Rule:

Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination applies to any practice in which sex is a motivating factor. 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(m). Sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one's sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted, making it impossible for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account. Sexual orientation discrimination is also based on assumptions or stereotypes about how members of a particular gender should be, including to whom they should be attracted. Finally, sexual orientation discrimination is associational discrimination because an adverse employment action that is motivated by the employer's opposition to association between members of particular sexes discriminates against an employee on the basis of sex. These three perspectives together amply demonstrate that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination.

Facts:

Donald Zarda, a skydiving instructor, brought a sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") alleging that he was fired from his job at Altitude Express, Inc. (“Altitude”), because he failed to conform to male sex stereotypes by referring to his sexual orientation.

Issue:

Was Zarda’s sex discrimination claim alleging that he was fired from his job at Altitude because he failed to conform to male sex stereotypes by referring to his sexual orientation meritorious?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court held that Zarda’s sexual orientation discrimination claim against Altitude was an actionable subset of sex discrimination, under 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(a)(1) and (m), because sexual orientation was defined by one's sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted, making such discrimination impossible without considering sex. Sexual orientation discrimination was a subset of sex discrimination because it was based on stereotypes about to whom members of a particular gender should be attracted. Sexual orientation discrimination was a subset of sex discrimination because it was motivated by an employer's opposition to association between members of particular sexes. The Court further held that Zarda had a cognizable sex discrimination claim because he alleged he failed to "conform to the straight male macho stereotype."

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