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Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc.

883 F.3d 100 (2018)

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Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

883 F.3d 100 (2018)

Facts

Donald Zarda (plaintiff) was a skydiving instructor at Altitude Express, Inc. (Altitude) (defendant). Zarda often led tandem skydives, in which he and clients were strapped hip-to-hip and shoulder-to-shoulder. Zarda’s coworkers frequently referenced sexual orientation and made sexual jokes around clients. Zarda sometimes disclosed that he was gay to minimize his female clients’ concerns about being strapped closely to a man. One day, Zarda told a female client that he was gay and had an ex-husband to prove it. The client later relayed Zarda’s comment to her boyfriend, who informed Zarda’s boss, who terminated Zarda shortly thereafter. Zarda sued Altitude in federal court, alleging both impermissible sex stereotyping in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and sexual-orientation discrimination in violation of New York state law. The district court granted Altitude’s summary-judgment motion on the Title VII claim, finding that Zarda failed to establish a prima facie case. Zarda lost his state-law claim at trial. Zarda appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit panel affirmed the jury’s verdict against Zarda. The Second Circuit then decided to rehear Zarda’s appeal en banc to determine whether the district court erred by dismissing Zarda’s Title VII claim.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Katzmann, C.J.)

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