United States Court of Appeals Applies Civil Rights Protections to the LGBT Community

April 7, 2017
Posted in Employment Law
United States Court of Appeals Applies Civil Rights Protections to the LGBT Community

Continuing a recent trend expanding Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination to cover sexual orientation, on April 4th the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit became the first federal appellate court to rule that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation.  For many years, the courts interpreted Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex to mean only gender discrimination, and not discrimination based on sexual orientation.  In recent months, the EEOC has made clear that it now interprets the bar on sex discrimination to include discrimination based on orientation, and a number of trial courts have come to the same conclusion.  However, the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College is the first time an appellate court at the federal level has followed suit and expanded the anti-discrimination protections within Title VII to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation.  While the Seventh Circuit’s decision is not binding on Pennsylvania courts, given the ever growing trend to apply Title VII protections to LGBT workers, Pennsylvania employers should now presume that any adverse employment action taken against a LGBT worker because of their sexual orientation will be deemed a violation of federal law.

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