- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has voided a previous ruling that said workplace discrimination based on one's sexual orientation does not qualify as sex discrimination as it is defined under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, according to a report from The National Law Review.
- Previously, in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, a three-judge panel of the appeals court affirmed a district court's ruling in favor of the defendant, saying in its decision that the plaintiff's claim was "solely for sexual orientation discrimination which is beyond the scope of the [Title VII] statute." The panel had reached its decision on July 28.
- "Rehearing an issue already decided by a smaller panel is rare," the National Law Review report said. A rehearing before the full appeals court will begin with oral argument on Nov. 30.
It's been a busy year for Title VII. Back in August, a federal judge dismissed a case brought forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) concerning workplace discrimination against transgender individuals. Nearly a month later, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled unanimously that dreadlocks are not a protected form of dress under Title VII. However, the EEOC did successfully land a $220K fine on a Baltimore business for discrimination against a lesbian employee in June.
The important thing for HR departments to remember, in any case, is that there is no substitute for good diversity training when battling discrimination. Employees are more likely to understand and absorb workplace discrimination policy when they can identify with people who have authentic personal experiences. Employee resource groups have also proven to help improve current workplace procedures and policies.