Lambda Legal to Seventh Circuit: Federal Law Prohibits Discrimination Against Lesbian Instructor

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September 30, 2015
Kimberly Hively

Today, Lambda Legal urged the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court ruling and allow Kimberly Hively to present her case alleging that Ivy Tech Community College, where she worked as an instructor for 14 years, denied her fulltime employment and promotions, and eventually terminated her employment, because she is a lesbian.

Last August, Hively filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against South Bend, Indiana-based Ivy Tech, claiming the school was violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against her because of her sexual orientation, a form of sex discrimination. Ivy Tech successfully moved the trial court to dismiss Hively’s claim, arguing that Title VII does not protect employees from antigay discrimination.

At today’s hearing, Lambda Legal argued that several court rulings and a recent decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) support Hively’s contention that sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination under Title VII and that the dismissal should be reversed. 

Lambda Legal Counsel Greg Nevins said:

Ivy Tech claims there is no authority supporting Kim Hively’s position, ignoring the many decisions of the EEOC and federal district courts across the country specifically holding that allegations of sexual orientation discrimination may be brought under Title VII. In fact, just this past July, in Baldwin v.  Foxx, the EEOC stated quite plainly that sexual orientation discrimination ‘necessarily’ is sex discrimination. Ivy Tech unfairly denied Kim Hively full-time employment on six different occasions before it eventually terminated her. It is time for courts to recognize that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination, and is unlawful.

For years, Lambda Legal has been explaining to courts that Title VII, when properly understood, protects LGBT employees.  Three of Lambda Legal’s successful efforts in 2014, in federal courts in Seattle, Chicago, and Washington D.C., were cited by the EEOC in Baldwin v. Foxx.

Kimberly Hively said

I applied for fulltime positions at Ivy Tech on six different occasions, and in many cases I was not even interviewed for the job, even though I taught there for 14 years and never had a negative evaluation. I just want my day in court.

Read the press release.