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US court rules in landmark LGBT+ workplace discrimination case

By Ross Semple

A US Appeals Court has ruled that civil rights laws protect LGBT+ employees against workplace discrimination.

Kimberly Hively, a teacher at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, alleged that her employer had denied her full-time work because she is a lesbian. The court hearing the case ruled 8-3 in support of Hively’s claim, reports the Associated Press.

The ruling was somewhat unexpected, as the Chicago-based Court is normally “considered relatively conservative.”

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals cited Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in its ruling. The law is routinely invoked in relation to discrimination over race, religion and sex – but this is the first time that the Civil Rights Act has been cited by a court in relation to the rights of LGBT+ people.

Just weeks ago, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta came down with an opposing verdict, arguing that the Act does not cover LGBT+ people.

Writing for the majority in the verdict, Chief Judge Diane Wood explained that Hively’s case “is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces,

“The employers in those cases were policing the boundaries of what jobs or behaviors they found acceptable for a woman (or in some cases, for a man).”

In the dissenting opinion, Judge Diane Sykes argued that the law does not protect workers on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity: “We are not authorized to infuse the text with a new or unconventional meaning or to update it to respond to changed social, economic, or political conditions.”

The ruling comes only days after US President Donald Trump signed away parts of an executive order protecting LGBT federal workers against discrimination, in one of his most overt attacks on the community since taking office in January.

The President signed an executive order on Monday (March 27) revoking three previous orders issued by Barack Obama, including Executive Order 13673 or the ‘the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Order’, Keen News Service reports.

The order, signed in 2014, required that companies receiving large federal contracts demonstrate that they had complied for at least three years with 14 federal laws, many of which prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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