Landmark Decision by Seventh Circuit: Title VII Covers Sexual Orientation Claims

Friday, April 7, 2017
Title VII prohibits discrimination “because of sex.” Historically, both the courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) refused to recognize sexual orientation as a protected class under Title VII. However, in Baldwin v. Foxx (2015), the EEOC took the position that sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorable because of the employee’s sex.

Seventh Circuit Landmark Decision
On April 4, 2017, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal court of appeals in the nation to rule that sexual orientation claims are actionable under Title VII. In a full panel en banc decision, the court opened the door for LGBT plaintiffs to use Title VII to seek relief for allegations of employment discrimination and retaliation (Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College). The 7th Circuit covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

The court concluded that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of discrimination and that it would require considerable calisthenics to remove the “sex from “sexual orientation” when applying Title VII.
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