Skip to Content

LGBTQ Rights at Work Just Got a Big Boost


LGBTQ Rights at Work Just Got a Big Boost

Federal appeals court issues major ruling on sexual-orientation discrimination

There’s good news for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) workers. A federal court just ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation can be considered unlawful sex discrimination.

Make no mistake: this is a big-deal ruling over an issue that has been hotly contested in recent years.

In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) directed that sexual orientation should be considered sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Then, in March of this year, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals undercut the EEOC by ruling that sexual orientation discrimination is not protected by Title VII.

But earlier this month the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found differently. It ruled that sexual orientation discrimination is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII.

Now, with two federal circuit courts issuing opposing rulings on this matter, it’s highly probable that this issue will wind up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court at some point.

Let’s talk about what happened in this case and what it might mean to you.

Was goodbye kiss unprofessional?

Kimberly Hively worked part-time as an adjunct professor at Ivy Tech Community College. One day before work, she gave her girlfriend a quick kiss in the car before heading into the building.

Later that day she received a call from a college administrator who admonished her for “sucking face” in the parking lot. She was reminded to act in a professional manner.

After that, Hively was unable to gain a foothold at work. Over several years, she repeatedly applied for full-time positions but was denied. Eventually even her part-time contract was not renewed.

Hively suspected the issue was not her job performance, but rather her sexual orientation.

She sued, alleging discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The college argued that her case should be thrown out because sexual orientation isn’t a protected category under Title VII.

However, the court disagreed. It ruled that it’s impossible to discriminate based on sexual orientation without taking a person’s sex into consideration. Therefore, the court said, common sense would dictate that sexual orientation is covered by Title VII.

Now that that issue is settled, Hively may continue with her case against her former employer.

(The case discussed here is Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana.)

Contact us now for a consultation

If you believe that your rights have been compromised because of your sexual orientation, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.

Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.

Share To: