Federal Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Job Protections For Gay Workers

Federal Appeals Court Rules In Favor Of Job Protections For Gay Workers

The decision-which came in Lambda Legal's case on behalf of Kimberly Hively, an instructor at Ivy Tech Community College who was sacked for being a lesbian-makes the Seventh Circuit the highest federal court to reach this conclusion and could change the national landscape of employment law for LGBT people. In a statement, Ivy Tech said it would not appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation violates federal law - marking a first federal ruling on LGBTQ discrimination.

Kimberly Hively sued Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Indiana in 2014 after the school declined to hire her permanently after working as a mathematics adjunct instructor for 14 years, reported Inside Higher Ed. Superb opinions were delivered by both Judge Diane Wood, author of the majority opinion, and Judge Diane Sykes, author of the dissent.

Tuesday's decision overturned a ruling by a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court, which said it was bound by earlier circuit precedents excluding sexual orientation claims from the law's coverage. This conflict may be the catalyst that pushes the issue in front of the Supreme Court. "We understand the words of Title VII differently not because we're smarter than the statute's framers and ratifiers, but because we live in a different era, a different culture".

Federal law forbids discrimination in the workplace based on an individuals race, color, religion, sex or national origin but does not explicitly include sexual orientation. "But we're not authorized to amend Title VII by interpretation".

To the court, there really is no difference between a gender nonconformity claim and discrimination based on sexual orientation; if one is prohibited, so is the other. While that would have given Hively a glimmer of hope, there was every reason to expect that the appeals court would agree with not only the lower court, but its own prior decisions, and, and the historically accepted law of Title VII. Wood noted that, for years, federal appeals courts have ruled differently, but she said that conclusion needs a fresh look in light of developments in the Supreme Court.

If Evans' case is heard by the entire 11th Circuit court, which has jurisdiction over Georgia, Alabama and Florida, gays and lesbians will be one step closer to having workplace protections against discrimination here. Hively is now an outlier, and the Supreme Court typically takes up cases where the federal appeals courts disagree.

Tiven adds that although the ruling only applies in three states, it "sends a powerful signal to the other federal circuit courts around the country that are considering the same issues right this minute".

Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Diane Wood said that "Hively represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype. she is not heterosexual".

IN teacher Kimberly Hively won her case arguing that her employer's decision not to hire her full time because of her sexual orientation was a violation of the historic 1965 Civil Rights Act.

But as the law now stands, employers within the 7th Circuit, which includes Illinois, Wisconsin and IN, are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

I would prefer to see us acknowledge openly that today we, who are judges rather than members of Congress, are imposing on a half-century-old statute a meaning of "sex discrimination" that the Congress that enacted it would not have accepted.

"The college denies that it discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of her sex or sexual orientation and will defend the plaintiff's claims on the merits in the trial court", Jeff Fanter, the senior vice president for communication and marketing at the community college, was quoted as saying by The New York Times. When Ivy Tech allegedly discriminated against Hively because of this, they engaged in unlawful sex stereotyping.

Still, for now, the Seventh Circuit Court's ruling gives LGBTQ advocates a historic victory.