Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Landmark Federal Appeals Court Decision Holds Employee Sex Discrimination Violates Civil Rights Act

Landmark Federal Appeals Court Decision Holds Employee Sex Discrimination Violates Civil Rights Act

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that discriminating against employees on the basis of sexual orientation violates the Civil Rights Act. This ruling is a landmark victory for gay rights advocates who have been pushing to expand workplace protections for years.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits the denial of employment opportunities on the basis of ‘race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,’ as noted by The National Law Journal. However, different federal appellate courts have defined and interpreted the term “sex” in Title VII in variant ways.

According to Chief Judge Diane Wood, “The logic of the Supreme Court’s decisions, as well as the common-sense reality that it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex, persuade us that the time has come to overrule our previous cases that have endeavored to find and observe that line.”

Lieff Cabraser attorney Kelly M. Dermody, head of the firm’s employment practice group and managing partner of the San Francisco office, called this ruling “a common sense conclusion.” “It is unlawful under the Civil Rights Act ‘to treat a person differently because the gender of their romantic partner(s) does not fit the sex stereotype for their gender.’ In fact, this is the only logical conclusion one can draw given the way in which gender role expectations animate anti-gay conduct,” Dermody noted.

Upholding Employee Rights

Lieff Cabraser has a strong tradition of fighting for employee rights across America. Our employment law class action cases challenge discrimination based on employees’ race, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability; wage violations, including failure to pay overtime, break time, or vacation time; and misuse of employees’ retirement benefits. We also represent employees who “blow the whistle” on wrongdoing by their employers as well as in other cases alleging violations of the law.