New York City Law Blog

Your Civil Rights Are Precious

Zarda v. Altitude Express: Decided by the Supreme Court for LGBT Workers Nationwide

  • By gantollino
  • Law posted:Appeals
  • Date:June 18, 2020

In June 2010, I filed an EEOC charge and, shortly thereafter, a complaint in the Eastern District of New York, alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as a subset of sex. We could not overcome earlier interpretations of the law, but I fought, first to a three-judge panel of Second Circuit, which held that Mr. Zarda would have to bring his case to the En Banc court, which means all active judges plus any senior judge who sat on the panel. I argued to the en banc and won 10-3.

My opponent petitioned review at the Supreme Court, and after consolidation with two other similar cases, the justices decided 6-3 that LGBT workers are protected under the language “because of sex” under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This means that all employers with at least 15 employees may not discriminate on the basis of sex. It was a long haul, and changed – and will change – United States history. The case was argued for the employees by Pamela Karlan, a prominent constitutional law scholar (below, preparing in the Supreme Court cafeteria) who has stood behind the lectern nine times now and won all but a couple of her cases.

Supreme Court, Early AM


Professor Pamela Karlan preparing for oral argument

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