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Sexual Orientation Discrimination Prohibited by the Seventh Circuit

April 6, 2017

This week, the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.  In allowing the claim of a lesbian professor to proceed to trial, the court held that sexual orientation discrimination falls within the prohibition against sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

This ruling aligns with the position taken by the EEOC that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII.  Other federal circuit courts have disagreed, however, ruling that there is no protection against sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII.  This split between the circuit courts lays the groundwork for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue in the future.

This decision is a reminder that employers, particularly those with employees in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, should review their policies and practices to ensure compliance with current law.  If you have any questions concerning the ruling or your policies and practices, please contact one of Honigman’s Labor and Employment attorneys.