EEOC wins key round in sexual orientation discrimination suit
A federal judge in Pennsylvania handed the EEOC a preliminary win in a case alleging that discrimination against a gay employee is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The case—EEOC v. Scott Medical Health Center—was filed on behalf of a man whose boss allegedly assailed him with anti-gay slurs until he felt compelled to quit.
In guidance published last year, the EEOC took the position that “existing sex discrimination provisions in Title VII protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) applicants and employees against employment bias.”
Scott Medical Health Center had filed a motion to dismiss the EEOC’s lawsuit, arguing that Title VII does not specifically reference sexual orientation as a possible basis for illegal discrimination.
Judge Cathy Bissoon denied the motion, writing that “there is no more obvious form of sex stereotyping than making a determination that a person should conform to heterosexuality.”
This isn’t the first time a court has so ruled, but the topic of bias against LGBT workers is gaining legal traction. In a separate case to be heard later this month, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear an appeal of an earlier ruling that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Depending on how the 7th Circuit rules, the issue could wind up being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Read the EEOC’s guidance on sexual orientation discrimination as a form of sex discrimination at www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/enforcement_protections_lgbt_workers.cfm.