Small Step Forward in Sexual Orientation Discrimination Claims
Federal court refuses to throw out case from gay male employee
A judge in Pennsylvania just opened the door a little wider for discrimination claims alleging sexual orientation bias.
A federal district court here is allowing a case about sexual orientation discrimination to proceed, despite efforts by the defendant company to have the case thrown out.
The company says that the claims made by its former employee – a gay man who claims that he was driven off the job because he didn’t conform to sex stereotypes – are not valid.
But the court disagreed with that argument.
Let’s dig in to the details of this case a bit and then discuss how it could impact the rights of LGBTQ employees.
Manager’s Bad Behavior Was Accepted
Dale Baxley was a telemarketer for Scott Medical Center for approximately one month. He claims that he would’ve liked to retain the position longer, but his supervisor, Robert McClendon, made it impossible for him to stay.
Baxley, who is gay, states that McClendon continually subjected him to insulting and offensive comments about his sexuality. Baxley alleges that McClendon used anti-gay epithets and made inquiries into the specifics of Baxley’s sex life with his partner. He says these conversations took place three to four times a week during the month that Baxley was employed at Scott Medical.
Baxley claims that he complained to the clinic director but he says nothing was done. The director allegedly told Baxley that his supervisor was “just doing his job.”
Several weeks later, Baxley quit. He complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which sued on his behalf.
Scott Medical Health Center attempted to have the lawsuit thrown out, stating that federal law does not bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.
But the court refused to throw out the case. It cited the EEOC’s updated interpretation of sex discrimination, which, as of July 2015, asserts that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of unlawful sex discrimination.
The judge wrote:
“That someone can be subjected to a barrage of insults, humiliation, hostility and/or changes to the terms and conditions of their employment, based upon nothing more than the aggressor’s view of what it means to be a man or a woman, is exactly the evil Title VII was designed to eradicate.”
The judge also cited a 1989 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that discrimination based on sex or gender stereotypes is illegal.
Now Baxley’s former employer will have to defend its actions in front a jury.
(The case discussed here is EEOC v. Scott Medical Health Center.)
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
It’s important to remember that different states or localities may have their own laws relating to sexual orientation discrimination. For example, Philadelphia has legislation in place to protect against sexual orientation discrimination, although the State of Pennsylvania does not.
If you believe that you’ve been subjected to unlawful treatment or practices at work because of your gender or sexual orientation, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney right away.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.