Recently, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that a civil rights law from 1964 protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees from workplace discrimination. The 8-3 decision is the first ruling by the federal appeals court to recognize that law as protecting the rights of LGBT individuals in the workplace.
The ruling was a victory for Kimberly Hively, a part-time instructor, who believed that she was not offered a full-time teaching position at Ivy Tech Community College. After the administrators discovered she was a lesbian, the institution refused to renew her contract. Ms. Hively filed suit against her employer in 2014, but the case was thrown out at the local level in Indiana. The Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation. In doing so, the full appeals court overturned the original decision by a smaller panel of its judges to uphold the district court’s decision in Ivy Tech’s favor.
Lambda Legal, the group that handled Ms. Hively’s case, stated that the appeals court ruling could “change the national landscape of employment law for LGBT people,” according to National Public Radio. Despite the fact that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently stated that gay workers are entitled to non-discrimination protection, other federal appeals courts have not. Federal law protects workers against discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. However, the law does not explicitly mention sexual orientation, and the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue.
This decision comes just weeks after the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta ruled in a 2-1 decision that Title VII of the act does not protect workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. In that case, Jameka Evans sued her employer for harassment and wrongful termination as a security guard at Georgia Regional. She alleged that she was targeted for termination because she was a lesbian and did not “carry herself in a traditional woman manner,” according to NBC.
Navigating the complexities of discrimination in the workplace can be difficult. It is important that individuals who have faced employment discrimination seek the guidance of an experienced employment discrimination lawyer. Steve Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer,” has represented individuals alleging unfair employee discrimination for approximately three decades. Mr. Sack is knowledgeable in all aspects of employment law and fights zealously on behalf of his clients. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Mr. Sack at 917-371-8000.