Tags: civil rights law | lgbt | employees

Civil Rights Law Protects LGBT Employees, Says Appeals Court

Image: Civil Rights Law Protects LGBT Employees, Says Appeals Court

Rainbow flag waves in front of U.S. Supreme Court. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 06 Apr 2017 09:54 AM

Federal civil rights law can be used to protect LGBT employees against discrimination, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, clearing the way for an Indiana instructor to sue a community college for not hiring her.

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.

Hively had said she was able to trace the Ivy Tech rejections to her sexual orientation after hearing about administrators who had commented to others about her being a lesbian in a relationship with another woman.

The federal court ruled 8-3 that Hively could sue the university under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The court stated that Title VII, which bars employment discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, religion and other factors, can also be used to sue for bias on the basis of sexual orientation, per Inside Higher Ed.

The court focused on the use of the word "sex" in the law, where previous courts ruled that lawmakers in 1964 clearly intended for "sex" to refer only to whether someone was male or female, reported The Associated Press.

The majority of the appeals court ruled, though, that the word "sex" can just as well mean "sexual orientation."

"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," Judge Richard Posner wrote concurring with the majority, noted the AP.

Greg Nevins, the employment fairness program director for Lambda Legal, which brought the case on behalf of Hively, called the decision "game changer" for the LGBT community in regards to employment discrimination.

"In many cities and states across the country, lesbian and gay workers are being fired because of who they love," said Nevins. "But, with this decision, federal law is catching up to public opinion: 90 percent of Americans already believe that LGBT employees should be valued for how well they do their jobs – not who they love or who they are."

The AP said that despite the decision being an outlier from similar past rulings, Ivy Tech has indicated that it does not intend to appeal to the Supreme Court. The school has denied discriminating against Hively.

The ruling overturned a unanimous decision by the appeal's court three-judge panel in last August, which stated that Hively did not have a right to sue under the law, noted Inside Higher Ed.

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Federal civil rights law can be used to protect LGBT employees against discrimination, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, clearing the way for an Indiana instructor to sue a community college for not hiring her.
civil rights law, lgbt, employees
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2017-54-06
Thursday, 06 Apr 2017 09:54 AM
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