On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal civil rights laws prohibited discrimination in the workplace against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender employees.

By an 8-3 decision, the Seventh Circuit overturned a three-judges panel and determined that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination, includes a prohibition against sexual orientation. This ruling is the first of its kind on the federal level. It also continues the nationwide effort to increase protections for the LGBT community.

The Plaintiff, Kimberly Hively, was a teacher at Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Indiana. She alleged that she was fired from her position because she is a lesbian. Additionally, Ms. Hively alleged that she had applied to six full-time positions at the school and did not get any of the positions applied for. The Seventh Circuit did not specifically rule on whether Ms. Hively had been discriminated against.

How Does This Decision Affect New Jersey

The decision was reached by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which only covers the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Therefore, the decision does not have any bearing on New Jersey case law other than being persuasive. New Jersey falls with the Third Circuit.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination is one of the most comprehensive and protective anti-discrimination statutes in the country. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination specifically includes a prohibition of discrimination against a person on the basis of their sexual orientation. Therefore, if an employee files a discrimination claim under New Jersey law, they may make their claim on the basis of sexual orientation.

However, if an employee sought to file the same claim under federal law, such as under Title VII, they will first have to convince the federal court that Title VII covers such a claim. An employee may very well rely on the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in an effort to establish a basis for their claim.

If you have a question regarding New Jersey Employment Law, please feel free to call our office and ask for Matthew R. Tavares.

Matthew R. Tavares focuses his practice in Litigation, Employment Law, Workers Compensation, and School Law matters. He is a trained mediator and has successfully mediated small claims and special civil part matters.

Mr. Tavares received his Juris Doctor from Western New England University School of Law in 2013, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year. Matthew was sworn in as a member of the New York State Bar in February 2016. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History and Criminal Justice in 2010 from the University of Delaware. Matt is a member of the Hunterdon County Bar Association and the New Jersey State Bar Association.

You may contact Matt at (908) 751-1551, or matthew@legalcounselnj.com.