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BREAKING NEWS: Seventh Circuit Becomes First Federal Court of Appeals to Recognize Sexual Orientation Discrimination Under Title VII

In what will certainly be considered a landmark appellate court decision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College yesterday concluding that individuals can bring sexual orientation discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By a vote of 8-3, the Court held that discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation" (which is not explicitly listed as a protected class under Title VII) is equivalent to discrimination on the basis of "sex" (which is listed as a protected class).

Prior to the Court's ruling, the Seventh Circuit had a long history of denying such claims based on the fact that sexual orientation was not explicitly included as a protected class and because Congress had continually failed to amend Title VII to include it as a protected class. It should be noted that no other federal appellate court has recognized a sexual orientation discrimination claim under Title VII. In fact, every other federal appellate court to rule on the issue has found that sexual orientation discrimination is not prohibited by Title VII. It appears almost certain that the Seventh Circuit's ruling in Hively will be appealed to the Supreme Court to resolve this new, however heavily imbalanced, split among the circuits.

Please look for a more in-depth analysis of the Seventh Circuit's Hively decision in this month's client alert.

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