2017 Cases Involving Gender Dysphoria and Sexual Orientation Pave the Way for Others


Posted by: Chris

Now that we’re well into the second half of 2017, it’s time to look back at some of the employment law cases that have made headlines so far this year. It just so happens that the majority of the groundbreaking cases have involved gender dysphoria and sexual orientation discrimination. It’s important to learn how these cases were resolved to see how your rights in the workplace could potentially be impacted in the future.

Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College

Kimberly Hively, an associate professor at Ivy Tech Community College, alleged that her employer chose not to renew her part-time position or hire her for a permanent position due to her sexual orientation. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Ms. Hively, stating that the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation.

Many have questioned whether Title VII covers sexual orientation discrimination, so the outcome of this case could inspire others who feel discriminated against due to their sexual orientation to step forward.

Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail Inc.

Kate Lynn Blatt alleged that she was fired from her job due to the fact that she has gender dysphoria. Ms. Blatt argued that gender dysphoria is a disability, and therefore her termination was illegal under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Cabela’s Retail Inc. fired back that the claim should be dismissed because the retailer does not believe that gender dysphoria qualifies as a disability.

In May, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied Cabela’s request to dismiss the claim on the basis that gender dysphoria is not covered by the ADA. This court’s ruling allows Ms. Blatt to move forward with her case, and sets a precedent for other transgender individuals to protect the rights afforded to them under the ADA.

Ellingsworth v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co.

Marykate Ellingsworth’s supervisor repeatedly made comments about Ms. Ellingsworth’s appearance, saying that she dressed “like a dyke,” and had “lesbian tattoos.” The supervisor also told Ms. Ellingsworth’s co-workers that she was a lesbian, despite the fact that she was married to a man. This behavior continued for a year until Ms. Ellingsworth took a leave of absence and eventually resigned from the position.

Ms. Ellingsworth took legal action against her employer for discriminating against her based on her perceived sexual orientation. Hartford asked the court to dismiss Ms. Ellingsworth’s claim, arguing that Title VII does not cover sexual orientation. But, the court denied this request, instead stating that the supervisor’s actions were clearly motivated by the belief that Ms. Ellingsworth did not fit the supervisor’s views of what it means to be a woman. Therefore, the court found that this was not an issue of sexual orientation discrimination, but rather sex or gender discrimination, which is indisputably covered by Title VII.

These cases indicate that sexual orientation and gender dysphoria will continue to be a major issue in employment lawsuits moving forward. If you have been discriminated against in the workplace, please call us today at 918-582-2500, or toll free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with an experienced attorney.