With marriage equality legal throughout the country, many people don't realize that there is still no federal law preventing discrimination in the workplace against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In some states -- including Indiana -- such discrimination is not illegal. Earlier this year, a bill that would have added sexual orientation as a protected class died in the state legislature.
Suit: Woman Denied Promotion Due to Sexual Orientation
Nonetheless, an Indiana woman filed a discrimination suit against Ivy Tech Community College, claiming that the school refused to promote her from a part-time to full-time instructor because she's a lesbian. She says that the school turned her down six times for a full-time position between 2009 and 2014 despite the fact that she had received no negative evaluations in her time there, beginning in 2000.
She sued the college in 2014. That suit was dismissed by a judge who ruled that sexual orientation is not a protected class under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. On July 28, a federal appeals court upheld the original dismissal.
Appeals Ruling Criticizes Federal Law
The appeals court justices, however, expressed criticism that sexual orientation is not a protected class under the Civil Rights Act, enacted in 1964. Only Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court, they noted, can make that addition. The court noted in its opinion: "It seems unlikely that our society can continue to condone a legal structure in which employees can be fired, "passed over for promotions, and otherwise discriminated against solely based on who they date, love or marry."
The college noted in its argument that the Civil Rights Act doesn't cover sexual orientation. However, it has denied that it discriminated against the plaintiff.
While in this case, the alleged discrimination didn't involve a protected class, illegal employment discrimination against those in such protected class can still be difficult to prove. In some cases those in a supervisory or hiring position may be foolish enough to state that someone is being discriminated against because of a characteristic that has no impact on someone's ability to do the job. However, when discrimination is not that overt, attorneys who handle workplace discrimination cases can still work to bring a successful case against an employer.
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