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In Ground Breaking Decision Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Says Sexual Orientation is Protected

In April 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held in Hively v. Ivy Tech Comty. Coll. Of Ind.,held Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.   The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals covers the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.  In Hively, the Court held Plaintiff could proceed on her claim that Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana failed to hire her for multiple positions because she is homosexual.

Title VII, in part, provides it is unlawful for an employer to fail to hire, discharge or otherwise discriminate against an individual on the basis of sex.  Sexual orientation, however, is not identified as protected.

To reach its decision, the Seventh Circuit relied, in part, on Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, a Supreme Court case which held the practice of gender stereotyping falls within Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination.

While this holding is limited to the states in the Seventh Circuit, other Circuits are likely to follow its lead.  Additionally, many state anti-discrimination laws already recognize sexual orientation as a protected class including New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.  Hively is ground breaking on a federal level, but many state and local laws have already expanded protection to sexual orientation.  In anticipation of this trend growing, employers should train their managers and supervisors about ensuring employment decisions are not based on an employee’s sexual orientation.

Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on civil rights issues and employment laws in general.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.