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Because of Sex? Title VII, Discrimination and the LGBTQ Community on the SCOTUS Docket

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Produced on November 19, 2019

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Course Information

Time 1h 4m
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

For many decades federal courts consistently held that Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination “because of sex” did not cover discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. These interpretations often relied on the limited legislative history regarding the inclusion of “sex” in Title VII, or Congress’s subsequent failure to amend Title VII to explicitly prohibit sexual orientation discrimination. Lower courts long felt constrained by this precedent, but over the last twenty years, federal courts have begun to revisit the question. Some courts used a “sex stereotyping” analysis to broaden the protection of Title VII, while other courts and the EEOC moved in the direction of simply interpreting the term “sex” to include sexual orientation. These interpretations seemed to gain momentum in 2015, when the Supreme Court recognized the fundamental right to marry for same-sex couples in Obergefell v. Hodges.

More recently, the Second and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeal have adopted the more expansive definition of “sex” advocated by the EEOC, while the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected this approach. The Sixth Circuit, in a case involving transgender discrimination, has also signaled its willingness to adopt a more expansive view of the term “sex.” The U.S. Supreme Court has granted cert to the Second, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuit decisions, and is expected hear an argument in the Fall of 2019. What the Supreme Court will do is uncertain, at best. Some legal observers believe that federal law is on the verge of “catching up” to the law in dozens of states, which explicitly recognizes the rights of LGBTQ people to protection from employment discrimination, but other observers are far less clear. 

This program, taught by Geoffrey Mort, Of Counsel at Kraus & Zuchlewski, Con Edison Associate General Counsel Christopher A. D’Angelo, and Ria Tabacco Mar from the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, will cover the various state and federal approaches, how to litigate these kinds of claims, and predictions for the future.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Address the current landscape of federal case law regarding employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation
  2. Examine the rationales for, and responses to, decisions finding that Title VII affords no protection to lesbians and gay men in employment
  3. Survey state statutes that prohibit sexual orientation discrimination
  4. Review the Second, Sixth, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuit cases that may change the direction of federal law regarding sexual orientation discrimination
  5. Assess the future safeguards against sexual orientation discrimination, if any
  6. Apply “best practices” for employers in a rapidly changing legal environment
  7. Discuss claims of sexual orientation discrimination in some state courts and probably in at least some federal circuit courts, including best practices during intake

Credit Information

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Christopher D'Angelo

Consolidated Edison Co. of New York

Mr. D’Angelo manages the Labor, Employment, Benefits and Workers Compensation Group as Associate General Counsel at Con Edison in New York City.  He has spent the bulk of his career as a management-side labor and employment lawyer since 1985, with large firm and small firm experience. His work experience includes a heavy focus on compliance, advising clients in all facets of this practice area (i.e. federal, state and local discrimination laws, FLSA, FMLA, NLRA, WARN, EPPA, employment contracts, executive compensation, restrictive covenants, severance agreements, reductions in force, whistleblower laws, collective bargaining negotiations), in a variety of factual situations from pre-employment through discipline and/or discharge.  Twenty years ago, Mr. D’Angelo collaborated with a partner on the creation of a workplace EEO and harassment training presentation which is regularly updated; the presentation has been given, either alone or with a co-presenter, to numerous clients on a regular basis over the last twenty years.  

Mr. D’Angelo is also a seasoned litigator, having represented clients in state and federal court, and before state and federal administrative agencies, in hundreds of discrimination cases.  He has been first or second chair at approximately 25 bench trials or administrative hearings and one jury trial, and first chair at over 100 labor arbitrations. Having an active litigation practice has helped immeasurably in developing the necessary insight and analytical skill to successfully advise clients on compliance issues.  

Mr. D’Angelo is active on the Volunteer Mediation Panel for the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of New York, and speaks and writes regularly on employment law issues.  He is active in leadership roles in professional associations and not-for-profit organizations, having recently been inducted as a fellow in to the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, and selected as Chair of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the New York State Bar Association, with a term to begin in June 2020.

Ria Tabacco Mar

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Ria Tabacco Mar is a staff attorney with the national ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project. Her litigation docket covers a wide range of issues affecting the equal rights of LGBT people, including employment discrimination and the use of religion to discriminate. In 2016, Ria was named one of the “Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40” by the National LGBT Bar Association.

Prior to joining the ACLU, Ria served as Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF), where she participated regularly as amicus curiae on cases involving marriage equality and was a member of the Board of Directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Ria served as a law clerk to Judge Victor Marrero of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and to Judge Julia Smith Gibbons of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. She also worked as a litigation associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. Ria graduated from New York University School of Law and Harvard College.

Geoffrey A. Mort

Kraus & Zuchlewski LLP

Geoffrey Mort has extensive experience in federal court litigation of employment discrimination lawsuits. He previously served as an Assistant Circuit Executive for the U.S. Second Circuit Courts and as a litigator in the New York City Corporation Counsel’s office. He has litigated cases in both federal and state court and before a number of government administrative agencies, and has handled arbitrations at the New York Stock Exchange and American Arbitration Association.

Mr. Mort is active in the New York State Bar Association’s Section on Labor and Employment Law, where he is co-chair of the Workplace Rights and Responsibilities Committee and the State Bar Association's Cannabis Law Committee. He also belongs to the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, where he has served on several committees, and the American Bar Association.

Mr. Mort is a frequent speaker at bar association conferences on a wide range of topics related to employment law. He is also a regular contributor to the New York Law Journal’s “Outside Counsel” column and to the Labor and Employment Law Journal.

Mr. Mort graduated from the University of Denver, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School, at which he was Commentaries Editor of the Law Review. In 2014, Mr. Mort was elected as a fellow of The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers.


Erin H.

Interesting to listen to this after key cases decided and reflect back on predictions.

Martha A.

Good to pick up some extra background on those key cases, especially Harris. Really enjoyed it.

Rachel C.

Very entertaining presenters; was great to see their differing views!

Charles L.

Very informative

John A.

Great panel - interaction with each other

John F.

Although a good chunk of the legal citations were to well-known SCOTUS cases, there still seemed to have plenty of discussion on more recent developments. Nice job!

Gina D. P.

I usually do not like panel presentations but this one was great! It was very coordinated, speakers were lively and gave their thoughts on what might happen on pending cases.

James M.

The program was excellent, but is now outdated due to the Supreme Court's decision.

Rosemary M.

These presenters really knew this area well!!

yu w.

Interesting and instructive

Allison S.

Great conversation between presenters and they had a great knowledge base on the subject.

Sean D.

Thanks! Great program.

Chere R.


Jaime P.


Karin V.

Well presented with good discussion between the presenters, which enhanced the learning points.

Jeff D.

Thank you!!!

Julie A. B.

Presenters ably covered the various state and federal approaches and highlighted how best to litigate these kinds of claims.

Michael W.

One of the best CLE's I've participated in on line. Very strong faculty and very interesting interactions.

Rachel S.

Very informative course!

Robin H.

Well done

michael h.

Good overview of history through pending cases, as well as practical application of the law.

Lori K.

Helpful to hear

Leslie R.

The panel members provided in depth discourse of the critical Circuit cases, statutory history, and EEOC precedent.

Alexandra R.

Very interesting

Thomas T.

All three of the commentators were great - they didn't necessarily agree but all explained their POVs with good detail.

Jeffrey P.

It was enlightening and made me think, maybe rethink some of my prior thoughts. Good content.

Eric R.

well presented, clear and cogent

Stephen S.


Laura O.

The level of discussion was incredibly high - great speakers!

Bradley S.

Excellent course

Karen C.

Great program; wonderful presenters.

Taryn C.

very relevant and up to date!

Matthew U.

Thank you.

Jay R.

Great course

greg s.

excellent panel

Kimberly F.

Cutting edge topic and appreciated the discussion

Sarah M.

Great program, very knowledgeable presenters

Christine T.

One of the best CLEs I've done recently

Richard P.

Very good three way tag team.

Daniel L.

great topic

Matthew G.


Susan A.

Excellent thank you

Aryn T.

Great discussion!

mindy t.

Important topic. Glad to see these professionals care so passionately (yes, I could detect that!) about LGBTQIA rights!

Frederick S.

Good presentation of facts and case law

Selena T.

All three speakers were extremely knowledgeable and coherent. The whole presentation flowed together very well. It was clear that a lot of work went into preparing the talk. Thank you.

Margaret E.

So nice to have such a current and anticipated ruling discussed deeply. Thank you!

Vivian P.

Found legislative history especially interesting

Sarah W.

This is a super interesting topic and I really enjoyed the three presenters having a discussion and conversation instead of just presenting. Getting their predictions was a nice addition.

Michael J. L.

Cutting Edge! Good, honest, professional discussion.

Jeffrey K.

Good course!

Nancy P.

the speakers were very knowledgeable and seemed very passionate about the topic.

Elisa V.

Ms Mar was excellent. I wish she had done the whole hour but I appreciate the program attempt to draw counsel from three key constituencies in topic for more depth.

Joseph P.

This was a great CLE with great insight. Thanks

S Anne J.

Ria was an excellent presenter, incredibly knowledgeable and engaging.

Alicia R.

Very informative.

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