Cross one group off the list of those protected by federal discrimination law

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Occasionally, employees (and their lawyers) get more creative than usual when it comes to claiming how they suffered discrimination. Take the following case, for example. In it, an employee claimed he was being harassed because some co-workers believed all people of his nationality are gay.

Recent case: Ben Argeropoulos worked for Exide Technologies and complained that his co-workers sexually harassed him based on both his Greek origins and their perception that all Greeks are homosexual.

When he sued for discrimination, Argeropoulos said he had to endure comments about the kinds of sex acts Greeks allegedly prefer and questions about whether he desired sex with women at all.

The court considering Argeropoulos’ case concluded that federal Title VII does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. Argeropoulos argued that he was really claiming national-origin discrimination based on the stereotype that Greeks are homosexual.

But the court said he couldn’t do that.

Here’s why: If there is no protection for sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation discrimination, Argeropoulos’ argument would create a special protected class: Greeks perceived as homosexual. That would mean that every other nationality would have less protection than Greeks. (Argeropoulos v. Exide, No. 08-CV-3760, ED NY, 2009)

Final note: Argeropoulos may have claims under New York state law, but the federal court said he would have to bring those claims in state court since his federal claims had been dismissed.

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