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Fifth Circuit Finds State Protections for LGBTQ Employees

Based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Texas’s state anti-discrimination statute protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In 2019, Amanda Sims sued Tarrant County College District (TCCD) for discrimination based on her sexual orientation. She worked for TCCD for three years and received positive performance evaluations. After disclosing to her supervisor that she was a lesbian, she alleged her work environment became hostile. When TCCD terminated her, Sims under the state’s anti-discrimination statute for discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In January 2020, TCCD moved to dismiss Sims’s discrimination claim under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA). Prior to this case, no Texas state court had addressed the issue of whether discrimination based on sexual orientation was prohibited under the TCHRA. In June 2020, the Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protected employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. According to the circuit court:

“In order to reconcile and conform the TCHRA with federal anti-discrimination and retaliation laws under Title VII, we conclude we must follow Bostock and read the TCHRA’s prohibition on discrimination ‘because if…sex’ as prohibiting discrimination based on an individual’s status as a homosexual or transgender person.”

Sims may pursue her claim under the state statute.