The rapidly advancing movement of society toward equal rights based on sexual orientation will likely see its next watershed moment in the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. In the case of Kimberly Hively v.Ivy Tech Community College, the court will decide whether Equal Employment Opportunity regulations legally extend such rights.
Even though Congress and the federal courts have routinely refused to interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to protect sexual orientation, the EEOC has issued guidance to its field agents stating that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is gender bias per se. It was just a matter of time before the issue would reach the federal appeal court level after the EEOC’s aggressive interpretation of the Act was rolled out in its guidance document.
In Hively, the plaintiff complained of being denied employment opportunities at Ivy Tech Community College. In her complaint, she alleged that she was being discriminated against because her sexual orientation failed to match the female stereotype. The district court granted Ivy Tech’s motion to dismiss, citing Seventh Circuit precedent that Title VII only prohibited discrimination “because of sex” and that Congress intended the words to mean “biological male or biological female.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, declaring that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right may or may not sway the court’s view of the Hively case. Since that decision, state and local governments have been adopting new standards extending civil rights protections to lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, and transgendered persons. So far, however, Congress has not seen fit to follow suit. It remains to be seen whether Obergefell will influence the federal courts on other claims of sexual orientation discrimination or whether they will wait for Congress to take action. Call Labor Law Office, APC today to speak with a professional discrimination lawyer in Los Angeles.
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