Full Seventh Circuit Agrees to Rehear Lambda Legal’s Indiana Employment Discrimination Case

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October 11, 2016
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Kimberly Hively

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals today granted en banc review in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, meaning that the entire court will hear the employment discrimination appeal of Lambda Legal’s client, Kimberly Hively.

Hively was denied full-time employment at Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Indiana, six different times and eventually terminated because she is a lesbian. The Court will schedule an oral argument soon.

“For too long, LGBT employees have been forced to conceal their true identity at work out of fear of backlash and discrimination. It’s a modern day ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ policy in the workplace. Not only is it wrong, it’s illegal—and we need the court to make it clear,” said Greg Nevins, Counsel and Employment Fairness Strategist for Lambda Legal. “We are thrilled to have this opportunity to make the case for Kimberly Hively and for all lesbian, gay and bisexual people who are good, hard-working employees. Whether or not someone may pass for straight at work, none of us should have to live in the closet.”

In August of 2014, Hively filed a lawsuit in a federal trial court against 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 on the basis of her sexual orientation. The trial court dismissed Hively’s lawsuit and held that Title VII does not protect employees from antigay discrimination.

In April 2015, Lambda Legal filed an appeal on Hively’s behalf seeking reversal and reinstatement of her complaint, but was denied by a panel of three judges in a decision issued July 28, 2016. Today the full Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to rehear the case.

“I am delighted that I will have my day in court, and hopeful that the judges will see that I was treated unfairly because I am a lesbian,” said Kimberly Hively. “If I had been a man attracted to women, I truly believe I would have been offered a full-time position and given promotions. Today’s decision gives me hope – hope for me, and for all other LGBT teachers, that we will not have to suffer the same unfair bias in the future.”

Lambda Legal has been explaining to courts for years that Title VII, when properly applied, protects LGBT employees from discrimination. In July 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held in Baldwin v. Foxx that sexual orientation discrimination “necessarily” is sex discrimination. Several other court rulings have also agreed that federal antidiscrimination laws also protect LGBT people.

Read the press release.