On April 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shields LGBT workers from on-the-job discrimination, allowing an Indiana teacher's lawsuit against her former employer to move forward. The decision will have a significant impact on the rights of LGBT workers in Houston and across the United States, according to legal observers.
The case before the court involved an adjunct professor who claimed she was fired from Indiana's Ivy Tech Community College for being a lesbian. The plaintiff, age 50, said she was reprimanded by the college after someone complained she was making out with her girlfriend in her car one morning in 2009. The school claimed it was unprofessional, but she maintained it was a quick goodbye kiss. In 2011, she earned her graduate degree and applied for several full-time positions at the college, but she was denied all of them. Meanwhile, she claims teachers with less time on the job landed promotions, while her work hours were cut. Her position was finally terminated in 2014. She sued the college for discrimination based on her sexual orientation.
The appellate court equated discrimination based on a worker's sexual orientation with sex discrimination, and the latter is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The ruling is an important milestone for LGBT rights in the workplace, but as there is a split in circuits the topic may have to ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
LGBT employees facing discrimination in the workplace may have grounds to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An employment attorney could review the details of the case and recommend the best course of action.
Source: CNN, "Lesbian plaintiff in work discrimination suit sticking to fight," Darran Simon, April 5, 2017