On January 20, 2016, a United States District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed a claim for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation on the ground that sexual orientation is not a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Igasaki v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, et al., No. 15-cv-03693 (N.D.Ill., 1/20/2016). The plaintiff alleged that he was subjected to discrimination based on his race, sex, age, and disability, and that he was retaliated against for complaining about his mistreatment. He alleged that a supervisor harassed him on the basis of his sex after the supervisor allegedly learned of his sexual orientation. The defendants argued that what the plaintiff attempted to characterize as a sex discrimination claim was actually a claim for discrimination on the basis of his sexual orientation, and, therefore, must be dismissed because sexual orientation discrimination is not actionable under Title VII. The judge agreed with the defendants, citing Hamner v. St. Vincent Hosp. & Health Care Ctr., Inc., 224 F.3d 701, 704 (7th Cir. 2000) as precedent that harassment based solely upon a person’s sexual preference or sexual orientation (and not on one’s sex) is not an unlawful employment practice under Title VII.
It should be noted, however, that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is unlawful under the Illinois Human Rights Act (the “Act”). Indeed, the Act contains an expansive list of protected classes, including sex, race, color, age, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, religion, marital status, order of protection status, citizenship status, military status, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and unfavorable discharge from military service. The Act also prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation.