853 F.3d 339 (7th Cir. 2017), 15-1720, Hively v. Ivy Tech Cmmunity College of Indiana

Docket Nº:15-1720
Citation:853 F.3d 339
Opinion Judge:Wood, Chief Judge.
Party Name:KIMBERLY HIVELY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. IVY TECH COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF INDIANA, Defendant-Appellee
Attorney:For KIMBERLY HIVELY, Plaintiff - Appellant: Gregory R. Nevins, Attorney, LAMBDA LEGAL DEFENSE & EDUCATION FUND, Atlanta, GA. For IVY TECH COMMUNITY COLLEGE, South Bend, Defendant - Appellee: Adam Lee Bartrom, Attorney, Jason T. Clagg, Attorney, BARNES & THORNBURG LLP, Fort Wayne, IN; John Robert ...
Judge Panel:Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and BAUER, POSNER, FLAUM, EASTERBROOK, RIPPLE, KANNE, ROVNER, WILLIAMS, SYKES, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges. POSNER, Circuit Judge, concurring. FLAUM, Circuit Judge, joined by RIPPLE, Circuit Judge, concurring. SYKES, Circuit Judge, with whom BAUER and KANNE, Circuit Jud...
Case Date:April 04, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
SUMMARY

Hively, who is openly lesbian, began teaching as a part‐time adjunct professor at Ivy Tech in 2000. In 2013, she filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming that she had been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, having been blocked from full-time employment “without just cause.” After exhausting EEOC procedural requirements, she filed suit, ... (see full summary)

 
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Page 339

853 F.3d 339 (7th Cir. 2017)

KIMBERLY HIVELY, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

IVY TECH COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF INDIANA, Defendant-Appellee

No. 15-1720

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 4, 2017

Argued November 30, 2016

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 3:14-cv-1791 -- Rudy Lozano, Judge.

For KIMBERLY HIVELY, Plaintiff - Appellant: Gregory R. Nevins, Attorney, LAMBDA LEGAL DEFENSE & EDUCATION FUND, Atlanta, GA.

For IVY TECH COMMUNITY COLLEGE, South Bend, Defendant - Appellee: Adam Lee Bartrom, Attorney, Jason T. Clagg, Attorney, BARNES & THORNBURG LLP, Fort Wayne, IN; John Robert Maley, Attorney, BARNES & THORNBURG LLP, Indianapolis, IN.

Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and BAUER, POSNER, FLAUM, EASTERBROOK, RIPPLE, KANNE, ROVNER, WILLIAMS, SYKES, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Wood, Chief Judge.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for employers subject to the Act to discriminate on the basis of a person's " race, color, religion, sex, or national origin ... ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). For many years, the courts of appeals of this country understood the prohibition against sex discrimination to exclude discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation. The Supreme Court, however, has never spoken to that question. In this case, we have been asked to take a fresh look at our position in light of developments at the Supreme Court extending over two decades. We have done so, and we conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination. We therefore reverse the district court's judgment dismissing Kimberly Hively's suit against Ivy Tech Community College and remand for further proceedings.

I

Hively is openly lesbian. She began teaching as a part-time, adjunct professor at Ivy Tech Community College's South Bend campus in 2000. Hoping to improve her lot, she applied for at least six full-time positions between 2009 and 2014. These efforts were unsuccessful; worse yet, in July 2014 her part-time contract was not renewed. Believing that Ivy Tech was spurning her because of her sexual orientation, she filed a pro se charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on December 13, 2013. It was short and to the point: I have applied for several positions at IVY TECH, fulltime, in the last 5 years. I believe I am being blocked from fulltime employment without just cause. I believe I am being discriminated against based on my sexual orientation. I believe I have been discriminated against and that my rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were violated.

After receiving a right-to-sue letter, she filed this action in the district court (again acting pro se). Ivy Tech responded with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. It argued that sexual orientation is not a protected class under Title VII or 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (which we will disregard for the remainder of this opinion). Relying on a line of this court's cases exemplified by Hamner v. St. Vincent Hosp. and Health Care Ctr., Inc., 224 F.3d 701 (7th Cir. 2000), the district court granted Ivy Tech's motion and dismissed Hively's case with prejudice.

Now represented by the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, Hively has appealed to this court. After an exhaustive exploration of the law governing claims involving discrimination based on sexual orientation, the panel affirmed. Hively v. Ivy Tech Cmty. Coll., 830 F.3d 698 (7th Cir. 2016). It began its analysis by noting that the idea that discrimination based on sexual orientation is somehow distinct from sex discrimination originated with dicta in Ulane v. Eastern Airlines, Inc., 742 F.2d 1081 (7th Cir. 1984). Ulane stated (as if this resolved matters) that Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination " implies that it is unlawful to discriminate against women because they are women and against men because they are men." Id. at 1085. From this truism, we deduced that " Congress had nothing more than the traditional notion of 'sex' in mind when it voted to outlaw sex discrimination ... ." Doe v. City of Belleville, Ill., 119 F.3d 563, 572 (7th Cir. 1997), cert. granted, judgment vacated sub nom.

City of Belleville v. Doe, 523 U.S. 1001, 118 S.Ct. 1183, 140 L.Ed.2d 313 (1998), abrogated by

Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 118 S.Ct. 998, 140 L.Ed.2d 201 (1998).

Later cases in this court, including Hamm v. Weyauwega Milk Prods., 332 F.3d 1058 (7th Cir. 2003), Hamner, and Spear-man v. Ford Motor Co., 231 F.3d 1080, 1085 (7th Cir. 2000), have accepted this as settled law. Almost all of our sister circuits have understood the law in the same way. See, e.g., Higgins v. New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc., 194 F.3d 252, 259 (1st Cir. 1999); Dawson v. Bumble & Bumble, 398 F.3d 211, 217 (2d Cir. 2005); Prowel v. Wise Bus. Forms, Inc., 579 F.3d 285, 290 (3d Cir. 2009); Wrightson v. Pizza Hut of Am., Inc., 99 F.3d 138, 143 (4th Cir. 1996); Blum v. Gulf Oil Corp., 597 F.2d 936, 938 (5th Cir. 1979); Kalich v. AT& T Mobility, LLC, 679 F.3d 464, 471 (6th Cir. 2012); Williamson v. A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., 876 F.2d 69, 70 (8th Cir. 1989); Medina v. Income Support Div., 413 F.3d 1131, 1135 (10th Cir. 2005); Fredette v. BVP Mgmt. Assocs., 112 F.3d 1503, 1510 (11th Cir. 1997). A panel of the Eleventh Circuit, recognizing that it was bound by the Fifth Circuit's precedent in Blum, 597 F.2d 936, recently reaffirmed (by a 2-1 vote) that it could not recognize sexual orientation discrimination claims under Title VII. Evans v. Georgia Reg'l Hosp., No. 15-15234, 2017 WL 943925, at *5-6 (11th Cir. Mar. 10, 2017). On the other hand, the Second Circuit recently found that an openly gay male plaintiff pleaded a claim of gender stereotyping that was sufficient to survive dismissal. The court observed that one panel lacked the power to reconsider the court's earlier decision holding that sexual orientation discrimination claims were not cognizable under Title VII. Christiansen v. Omnicom Group, Inc., No. 16-748, (2d Cir. Mar. 27, 2017) (per curiam). Nonetheless, two of the three judges, relying on many of the same arguments presented here, noted in concurrence that they thought their court ought to consider revisiting that precedent in an appropriate case. Id. at 2 (Katzmann, J., concurring). Notable in its absence from the debate over the proper interpretation of the scope of Title VII's ban on sex discrimination is the United States Supreme Court.

That is not because the Supreme Court has left this subject entirely to the side. To the contrary, as the panel recognized, over the years the Court has issued several opinions that are relevant to the issue before us. Key among those decisions are Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 109 S.Ct. 1775, 104 L.Ed.2d 268 (1989), and Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 118 S.Ct. 998, 140 L.Ed.2d 201 (1998). Price Waterhouse held that the practice of gender stereotyping falls within Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination, and Oncale clarified that it makes no difference if the sex of the harasser is (or is not) the same as the sex of the victim. Our panel frankly acknowledged how difficult it is " to extricate the gender nonconformity claims from the sexual orientation claims." 830 F.3d at 709. That effort, it commented, has led to a " confused hodge-podge of cases." Id. at 711. It also noted that " all gay, lesbian and bisexual persons fail to comply with the sine qua non of gender stereotypes--that all men should form intimate relationships only with women, and all women should form intimate relationships only with men." Id. Especially since the Supreme Court's recognition that the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution protect the right of same-sex couples to marry, Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S.Ct. 2584, 192 L.Ed.2d 609 (2015), bizarre results ensue from the current regime. As the panel noted, it creates " a paradoxical legal landscape in which a person can be married on Saturday and then fired on Monday for just that act." 830 F.3d at 714. Finally, the panel highlighted the sharp tension between a rule that fails to recognize that discrimination on the basis of the sex with whom a person associates is a form of sex discrimination, and the rule, recognized since Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 87 S.Ct. 1817, 18 L.Ed.2d 1010 (1967), that discrimination on the basis of the race with whom a person associates is a form of racial discrimination.

Despite all these problems, the panel correctly noted that it was bound by this court's precedents, to which we referred earlier. It thought that the handwriting signaling their demise might be on the wall, but it did not feel...

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