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Federal Court: Civil Rights Act Protects Gay, Lesbian Workers From Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Because it was enacted in 1964, many have wondered whether gay and lesbian workers were also protected under the law. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals answered that question this week, ruling that Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court reasoned that the statute's ban on sex discrimination also prohibited sexual orientation discrimination because, among other reasons, the discrimination is based on outdated gender stereotypes. Here's a look: Stereotypical Discrimination The plaintiff in the case, Kimberly Hively, contends that she was passed over for full-time employment at Ivy Tech Community College because she is lesbian. Her central claim, as it pertains to Title VII, is that this discrimination was based on her sex or gender -- that, had she been a man, she would not have been discriminated against for being sexually attracted to women. And the majority found it persuasive: Viewed through the lens of the gender non-conformity line of cases, Hively represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype (at least as understood in a place such as modern America, which views heterosexuality as the norm and other forms of sexuality as exceptional): she is not heterosexual ... Hively's claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces, such as fire departments, construction, and policing. The employers in those cases were policing the boundaries of what jobs or behaviors they found acceptable for a woman (or in some cases, for a man). Essentially, Hivey was still discriminated against based on her sex in that she did not conform to stereotypes about female sexual orientation. A Definitive Decision? The court's decision is groundbreaking. Until now, the majority of courts interpreting Title VII have held that it did not cover discrimination based solely on sexual orientation. While the Second Circuit found that sexual-orientation discrimination wasn't explicitly prohibited by Title VII, it recently found that gay workers who were subject to gender stereotyping still had the right bring sex discrimination claims. The Supreme Court has yet to decide the issue, but may need to soon, giving the disagreement between circuits. For now, the Seventh Circuit's ruling applies only to its own jurisdiction: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Related Resources: Find Employment Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Seventh Circuit Holds That Title VII Forbids Anti-Gay Job Discrimination (The Washington Post) LGBT Worker Protections Missing in Mississippi and Most States (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Signs of Employment Discrimination (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Contractor Injured at Your House: Are You Liable?

Homeowners having work done to their homes may be concerned about not just the quality of the work, but also about the potential legal liability for injuries sustained by contractors performing the work. By virtue of owning the property, homeowners may generally be held responsible for injuries caused by negligence in failing to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition. What is considered negligence in a given situation depends in part upon the status of the injured person, but also the cause of the injury and the circumstances surrounding an accident. A homeowner's eventual liability may also depend on whether an injury will be covered by insurance. What do homeowners need to know about the possibility of a home-improvement or construction contractor being injured? Duty of Care Owed to Contractors Although contractors are on a person's property in a professional capacity, homeowners still owe them a duty to reasonably maintain the property. For the purposes of homeowner liability, injured parties are grouped into three categories, each of which are owed varying levels of care: invitees, licensees, and trespassers. Contractors are generally considered to be invitees, which include visitors on a property for business purposes (such as workers or customers in a store). Homeowners owe the highest degree of care to this group of visitors, including a duty to repair known dangers and inspect for undiscovered hazards in areas an invitee may have access. When a homeowner fails to live up to this duty, and a contractor is injured because of a condition that the homeowner would reasonably have been expected to discover and correct, the homeowner may be liable for negligence in a personal injury lawsuit. What About Insurance? In some instances, a homeowner's insurance policy may protect against personal injury liability. Although individual policies vary, some homeowner's policies provide coverage for accidents and injury claims, including those by contractors. A contractor's injury may also be covered by the contractor's own insurance. If the contractor is working as an employee of a larger company or contractor, he or she may be covered by worker's compensation. Contractors may also have other forms of insurance coverage that may provide coverage for injuries sustained by the contractors themselves, or a contractor's employees and subcontractors. If you are concerned about potential liability for a contractor injured on your property, you may wish to contact a personal injury defense attorney. You can also learn more about liability for injuries or accidents at FindLaw's section on Homeowner Liability and Safety. Related Resources: Browse Personal Injury -- Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) Who's Liable for Your Holiday Party Injury? (FindLaw's Injured) If Your Tree Falls Onto Neighbor's Property, Are You Liable? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Want to Sue a Home Contractor? 3 Things to Consider (FindLaw's Injured)
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