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Tennessee employees who identify as part of the LGBT community may be interested to learn that, on April 4, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled that employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation. This significant decision means that the court considers sexual orientation discrimination to be illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 even though sexual orientation is not specifically mentioned in that statute.

A former part-time professor sued Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana after she was allegedly denied a full-time teaching position due to her sexual orientation. The case had originally been dismissed by the district court because Title VII did not explicitly state that sexual orientation was a protected class. A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit later affirmed the original ruling. In response to this decision, the former professor requested an appeal with the entire panel of the 7th Circuit.

The Seventh Circuit then overturned the previous decision in an 8 to 3 ruling. Ultimately, the court argued that sexual orientation discrimination was a form of sex discrimination. In the opinion, the court held that previous Supreme Court decisions have maintained that LGBT employees have certain protections in the workplace and that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of a person’s sex.

Workplace discrimination can prevent employees from being able to advance in their careers. If they are being discriminated against due to their sexual orientation, an employment attorney may assist with filing a lawsuit against the employer. In many cases, the attorney may negotiate with the employer to seek compensation for wages and other benefits the client lost.