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CHICAGO, IL, Nov. 30, 2016 – Today, the full 11-member Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case of Lambda Legal client, Kimberly Hively, a lesbian math teacher who was repeatedly denied promotions and ultimately fired from her job after it became known that she was a lesbian. The case, Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, has potential to change the landscape and protect LGBT employees across the country.

“For too long, LGBT employees have been forced to conceal their true identity at work for fear of backlash and discrimination. It’s nothing short of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ policy in the workplace,” said Greg Nevins, Counsel and Workplace Fairness Program Director for Lambda Legal. “In 2017, hardworking employees should not have to live in the closet in order to keep their jobs.”

In today’s hearing, Lambda Legal argued that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, which is already prohibited under federal law. Several federal trial courts and the EEOC agree: courts have long agreed that employers cannot hold employees to stereotypes about how they believe men and women should behave.

“Being denied advancement again and again was heartbreaking. Then to lose my job altogether, it was completely demoralizing,” said Kimberly Hively. “It didn’t matter that I was a good employee. The fact that I am a lesbian meant that I was never going to be good enough for them. To have gotten this far in my case makes me optimistic – I have a lot of hope.”

“If a woman is attracted to another woman—and that doesn’t fit an employer’s stereotype about who women should be attracted to—that is sex stereotyping and against the law,” Nevins added. “If the Seventh Circuit agrees with us, it will be the breakthrough we need to advance workplace protections for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees across this nation. We have good reason to be hopeful.”

In August of 2014, Hively sued Ivy Tech Community College, arguing that the school violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act when it denied her full-time employment and promotions after she had been seen kissing her then girlfriend in the parking lot of the school. The trial court dismissed Hively’s lawsuit and held that Title VII does not protect employees from antigay discrimination.

In April 2015, Lambda Legal appealed to the Seventh Circuit, seeking reversal and reinstatement of Hively’s complaint. A three-judge panel ruled against Hively in July, but Lambda Legal requested a rehearing of the case by the entire court.  On October 11, 2016 that request was granted, and today the entire Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in the case.

Watch This Could Change Everything: Taking LGBT Workplace Discrimination to Federal Court: https://youtu.be/BGhWtJNAVgo

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people living with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.  www.lambdalegal.org