The Seventh Circuit just became the first federal appellate court in the country to extend Title VII protection to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The decision was issued today in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College.
In Hively, the plaintiff was a part-time adjunct professor who identified as a lesbian. The plaintiff sued Ivy Tech Community College (“Ivy Tech”) in 2014 alleging she was denied full-time employment and promotions based on her sexual orientation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Northern District of Indiana granted Ivy Tech’s motion to dismiss based on the language of Title VII and Seventh Circuit precedent, which has held that Title VII does not prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Northern District of Indiana’s ruling is similar to the rulings of other federal appellate courts.
On appeal, the Seventh Circuit, consisting of a three-judge panel, initially affirmed the district court’s ruling. However, on October 11, 2016, the Seventh Circuit set aside its previous ruling in response to plaintiff’s petition and agreed to rehear the case en banc, meaning all Seventh Circuit judges would hear the case together, including the three judges on the original panel. The en banc hearing took place on November 30, 2016.
This decision will impact employers in the Seventh Circuit, which encompasses the states of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Employers from these states should consider how their current policies and practices may impact their employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. In doing so, employers should review their policies, handbooks, training, workplace investigations, hiring methods, discipline, and discharge procedures.
For additional information on this or any related topic, please contact Indiana labor and employment law attorney Olivia Robinson at (812) 423-3183 or orobinson@KDDK.com, or contact any member of the KDDK Labor and Employment Law Practice Team.
About the Author
Olivia Robinson is an Indiana labor and employment law attorney who leverages her strong legal research, organization and communication skills as she advises employers on avoiding and defending against harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and other employment-related claims in federal and state courts and before local, state and federal administrative agencies.