7th Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Title VII Sex Discrimination Suit

On November 14, 2014, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a sex discrimination lawsuit filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Stuart v. Local 727, No. 14-1710 (7th Cir., 11-14-2014). The plaintiff is a professional driver who belonged to a union. She alleged that in its 70-year history, the Movie/Trade Show Division of the union never referred a female driver to drive for any of its movie or television production companies. She also alleged that she received no referrals in four and a half years, her resume was never included with those of the other applicants, and no women has ever been referred by the Division for a driving job.

The district court dismissed the lawsuit on the basis that the failure to refer the plaintiff for work is not an actionable form of discrimination under Title VII. The 7th Circuit reversed, citing the language of Title VII which states that it is unlawful for a union to "fail or refuse to refer for employment any individual" because of the individual's sex. The failure to refer a person for a job is discrimination actionable under Title VII when the failure to refer is motivated by the person's sex or race or some other characteristic that an employer or union is forbidden to consider.