Civil Rights Act prohibits LGBT discrimination in US workforce, court rules

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Rainbow colors to support LGBT groups
A participant holds a rainbow coloured placard during Delhi Queer Pride Parade, an event promoting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, in New Delhi, November 30, 2014. Reuters/Adnan Abidi

A federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits workplace discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. The ruling, first of its kind, came weeks after a three-judge panel in Atlanta ruled the opposite.

The decision was made by the full 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which claimed that "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.” Federal law previously barred workplace discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin, but it did not specifically mention about sexual orientation.

The appeals court explained that it based its conclusion on previous Supreme Court decisions that involved gay rights and employment discrimination. Judge Diane Sykes described the ruling as "momentous.”

Greg Nevins, Employment Fairness Program Director for Lambda Legal, said the decision is a game changer for lesbian and gay employees that deal with discrimination at work. It also stresses a clear message: “it is against the law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The case reportedly roots from a lawsuit filed by Indiana teacher Kimberly Hively, who says Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend doesn’t grant her a full time job because she is a lesbian. She was represented by Nevins, who believed that federal law is catching up to opinion of the majority. He pointed that 90 percent of Americans agree that LGBT employees should be treated for how well they accomplish their jobs instead of looking at them by who they love or who they are, NBC News reports.

The ruling, written by Chief Judge Diane Wood, also comes as the administration of US President Donald Trump rolls its policies on LGBT rights. Earlier this year, the White House announced that the president will enforce an order barring companies that do federal work from workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual identity. Trump’s administration also opted to revoke policies on transgender students' usage of public school bathrooms, deferring to states.

Last month, a federal appeals panel in Atlanta arrived at an opposite conclusion in the case of Jameka Evans, who claimed that she was terminated from work because she failed to "carry herself in a traditional woman manner.” Evans worked as a hospital security officer. In April 2015, she sued her former employer, Georgia Regional Hospital in Savannah, alleging she was forced from her job because she didn't conform to gender norms.

Video Source: YouTube/USA TODAY