Seventh Circuit Looks Poised to Reverse Itself on Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Sara Geenen

In August, a panel of three judges of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, citing its longstanding precedent, reluctantly held that Title VII – the provision of federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, gender, disability, and religion – did not extend the same protections to sexual orientation discrimination. Shortly thereafter, that Court agreed to rehear the case en banc – by the full Court. The decision to rehear the case is a majority decision of all of the judges of the Court of Appeals. The decision, and the harsh commentary in the original opinion, are a good indicator that the Court is looking to reevaluate the reasoning and longstanding precedent.

At oral arguments this week, the Court’s questions were pointed and commentators suggested that the Seventh Circuit does look poised to overturn longstanding protection and join with other Courts of Appeal across the country that have held that workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited. We will provide updates once the Court issues its decision.