By Beth M. Rivers In a groundbreaking decision, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation violates federal civil rights law. In Hively v Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, 853 F3d 339 (7th Cir 2017) the court found that such discrimination is a form of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. This is the first time that a federal court of appeals had reached this conclusion and could potentially change the national and local landscape of employment law for LGBT people. Although courts have been reluctant to expand the protections of Title VII and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation claims, some Michigan and federal courts have used a gender-stereotyping theory to litigate claims of sexual orientation discrimination. However, the EEOC has recognized sexual orientation as a protected class since 2015 and has successfully pursued charges of sex discrimination based on sexual orientation. Now a court of appeals have also recognized the validity of such a claim. In Hively the plaintiff sued her employer arguing that the school violated Title VII when it denied her full-time employment and promotions after she had been seen kissing her then-girlfriend. In its decision, the Court of Appeals concluded that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation constitutes impermissible discrimination on the basis of sex – which is one of the specifically protected categories under Title VII. In reaching this result, the Court rejected any distinction between sex discrimination based on sexual orientation and sex discrimination based on gender stereotyping noting that while courts have previously “described the line between a gender nonconformity claim and one based on sexual orientation as gossamer thin, we conclude that it does not exist at all.” The Court explained that Hively’s claim is no different than any other gender stereotyping claims brought by women who were rejected for job in traditionally male workplaces, such as fire departments, construction and policing as the employers in those cases were policing the boundaries of what jobs or behaviors they found acceptable for a women. Likewise discrimination based on sexual orientation flows from the premise that all men should date or marry women and that all women should date or marry men. As such, it is precisely the LGBT employee’s sex, i.e. gender, that precipitates discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In short, according to the Court, sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination and thefore Hively was permitted to proceed with her claim. While the Hively decision technically only applies to employees in the Seventh Circuit, which includes the states of Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, this decision along with the position of the EEOC, has established a foothold which hopefully will be followed by additional federal courts and state courts including Michigan.
Channing Robinson-Holmes was featured in a biographical profile published by the Legal News. Read the full profile of Channing here.
Michael Pitt and Ted Leopold were quoted in coverage by television outlet WJRT/ABC/Flint regarding the process for filing claims in the Flint Water Crisis class action, in which the State of Michigan announced a proposed $600 million settlement....
MIchael Pitt was cited in an article published by the Traverse City Record-Eagle regarding the State of Michigan's proposed $600 million settlement in the Flint Water Crisis class action. Read the full report here.
Michael Pitt and Ted Leopold were quoted in The Hill (daily newsletter covering the federal govt. and national issues) as part of its coverage of the State of Michigan's proposed $600 million settlement in the Flint Water Crisis class action....
Detroit Free Press -- "Flint Water Crisis Legal Settlement Totals $600M, Creates Victim Compensation Fund"
Michael Pitt and Ted Leopold were cited in a Detroit Free Press report on the proposed $600 million settlement in the Flint Water Crisis class action and how the funds will be distributed. Read the entire article here.
Michael Pitt and Ted Leopold were quoted in a Detroit News article reporting on the process to be used for making claims in the Flint Water Crisis class action in which a $600 million settlement has been proposed. Read the entire article...
Michael Pitt and Trachelle Young were quoted in NBC News coverage of the State of Michigan's announcement of a proposed $600 million settlement in the Flint Water Crisis class action. Read the entire report here.
Michael Pitt and Ted Leopold were cited in WNEM/CBS/Saginaw coverage of the announcement by the State of Michigan on a proposed $600M settlement in the Flint Water Crisis class action. Read the entire report here.
Jennifer Lord was quoted in a Law360 "Access to Justice" feature examining problems experienced by thousands of Americans trying to collect unemployment benefits due to COVID-19-related layoffs and ongoing issues with automated...
Michael Pitt was quoted in a Bridge Michigan report on reaction to the announcement of a $600M Settlement in the Flint Water Crisis class action. Read the entire report here.
Michael Pitt was quoted in a Washington Post report on the announcement of a $600 millon settlement in the Flint Water Crisis class action. Read the entire report here.
Legal News -- "Michigan Court of Appeals Affirms $388K Verdict for Jackson Educator in Whistleblower Lawsuit"
Megan Bonanni was quoted in a Legal News report on the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmation of a $388K verdict in the Pennie Davis whistleblower case against Jackson Schools. Read entire article here.
M. Pitt Cited in MLive Report on Midland Area Couple's Claim Filed Against the Federal Energy Resource Commission in Edenville Dam Collapse
Michael Pitt was quoted in MLive coverage of the claim filed against the Federal Energy Commission by a Midland Couple for property and personal damages caused by flooding after the collapse of the Edenville Dam in May 2020. The firm is representing Dan and Cathy Miller and filed a $1.25 million claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Read entire article here.
M. Pitt Cited in Bridge Magazine Report on Lawsuit Firm Filed Against Federal Energy Resource Commission
Michael Pitt was cited in Bridge Magazine coverage of the lawsuit filed by the firm against the Federal Energy Resouce Commission. The plaintiffs are Sanford, Mich. couple Cathy and Dan Allen whose home was severely damaged in mass flooding following the collapse of the Edenville Dam in May 2020.
Mike Pitt, Ted Leopold and Paul Stephen were referenced as plaintiffs' attorneys in a Midland Daily News report on the lawsuit filed June 25 in the Michigan Court of Claims. The coverage notes that the suit's 15 plaintiffs owned property and homes which were damaged or destroyed in the May 19 Midland area flooding caused by the collapse of the Edenville Dam. Read full article here.
Michael Pitt was cited in Detroit News coverage examining the lack of maintenance and repairs at the Edenville Dam and related issues regarding regulation of the dam prior to its collapse and subsequent flooding in the Midland area. Read full article here.
Micheal Pitt was cited in a Bridge Magazine report on the appointment of an independent team of investigators to look into the Edenville Dam failure which resulted in massive flooding and property damage in the Midland, Mich....
Jennifer Lord was cited in an article published by GOVERNING magazine regarding the breakdown in customer service at the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. Read full article here.
Crain's Detroit Business -- "Nonprofit Sues Canton Apartment Complex, Alleging Discrimination of Recovering Substance Abusers"
Robin Wagner and firm client Joseph Paliwoda were quoted in Crain's Detroit Business coverage of the Personalized Nursing LIGHT House vs. Crossings of Canton housing discrimination suit: Read full article here.