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The 1964 Civil Rights Act, maybe the most important anti-workplace discrimination law ever passed by Congress, is still being interpreted in courtrooms in 2017. A ruling by a panel of federal judges could set up a showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court about whether the Act protects LGBT workers from discrimination.

It is well-settled that the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against their employees based on race, skin color, religion, national origin or sex. Many contend that the last term, “sex,” refers only to discrimination because of the victim’s gender.

LGBT Discrimination Attorney Oakland

The Civil Rights Act and LGBT workers

But other legal scholars and LGBT activists say that the term “sex” in the Civil Rights Act should be interpreted to mean sexual orientation as well. In an April 4 ruling, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed in an 8-3 vote, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The ruling is connected to a lawsuit brought by a college instructor who says the community college where she taught refused to hire her on full-time because she is a lesbian. Ruling on the question of whether the Civil Rights Act applies in her case, the Court of Appeals sided with the teacher.

“I don’t see why firing a lesbian because she is in the subset of women who are lesbian should be thought any less a form of sex discrimination than firing a woman because she’s a woman,” wrote Judge Richard Posner in his decision.

Future Supreme Court case?

Another federal judicial panel recently ruled the opposite way. This could set up an appeal to the Supreme Court to settle the issue.

Stand up for your rights as a worker

In California, the Civil Rights Act is just one tool at the disposal of employment discrimination victims and their attorneys. If you believe you have been discriminated against at work, speak to an experienced employment lawyer about your legal options.

Do You Need a Specialized LGBT Discrimination Lawyer?

If you feel that you may have experienced discrimination due to your gender or sexual orientation, you may want to consider a consultation with a specialized LGTB discrimination lawyer. Our attorneys can listen to your situation and provide some guidance as to whether you may possibly have a LGTB / gender discrimination case. No two situations are alike, so it is important to speak to a gender discrimination lawyer, whether in our Oakland, California, office or our law firm office in San Anselmo, California.