Civil Rights Act may not offer equal protection in all cases

Workplace discrimination can take many shapes and sizes, but one would hope that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity would be a thing of the past by now. Unfortunately for workers' rights advocates, a three-judge panel ruled recently on a case before the 11th Circuit appeals court, stating that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its protections do not extend to discrimination against employees due to sexual orientation.

While it may come as a surprise, current interpretations of the Civil Rights Act regularly do not recognize discrimination against sexual orientation as an actionable offense because the the act itself does not consider sexual orientation a protected class.

The 7th Circuit of Appeals, which includes Indiana, heard a similar case near the end of 2016, but has yet to announce its ruling. However, there have been several indications that the 7th Circuit is ready to stand up for workers' rights and expand the definition of some protected classes, including sexual orientation.

Understandably, sexual orientation is a controversial issue, and many individuals throughout Indiana and the rest of the country fall in many places when it comes to their personal feelings on the issue. However, the controversial nature of the issue can often cloud the matter when it comes to workers' rights.

Part of the fundamentally important part of the issue for many workers is not actually about sexual orientation, but in a broader sense, about an employer's right to make decisions about employees based on personal matters rather than professional qualifications. While there are many worldviews that look poorly on non-traditional sexual orientation, it is easy to see how denying workers' rights in one case may have negative consequences later on when the shoe may be on the other foot

If you believe that your rights have been violated, do not hesitate to seek out fair, experienced legal guidance from a skilled attorney. With proper guidance, you can fight for your rights and the rights of many workers across a wide spectrum of backgrounds and experiences.

Source: The National Law Review, "Court Rules Gay Employees Not Protected Under Civil Rights Law," March 16, 2017

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