Sexual-orientation bias is one of the few areas where workers are not fully protected by anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. In a rare move, the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals chose to vacate the 7th Circuit Courts dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Kimberly Hively from South Bend Indiana. In July, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court had ruled that existing federal workplace discrimination laws, specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, do not cover sexual orientation bias.
Hively’s suit was filed by her discrimination lawyer against Ivy Tech Community College where she starting working in 2000 as a part-time instructor. Hively claims she applied for six full-time positions at the college, but that the college refused to hire her on a full-time basis because of her status as a lesbian. Hively’s lawyers claim that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act should be expanded to include protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals decision means that the full 7th Circuit Court will now rehear the case. Should the court interpret the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include transgender individuals, it will become law in the 7th Circuit. However, it would require a similar ruling by the Supreme Court or legislative action by the US Congress for it to become law throughout the country.
Illinois employees have the protections of the Illinois Human Rights Act. The Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation.