The US’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that it has filed its first two lawsuits against companies for allegedly discriminating against gay employees.
The suits follow last July’s landmark ruling by the EEOC that gay and lesbian staff could claim sexual orientation discrimination as a form of sex discrimination.
This is despite the fact that there is still no currently federal law protecting LGBT staff from workplace discrimination.
The ruling paved the way for anyone who works for an employer with 15 or more staff to file a charge of sex discrimination with the EEOC if they are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.
The first of the two lawsuits is against Pennsylvania-based Scott Medical Health Center. Dale Baxley, a gay employee with the company, said he resigned after facing continual harassment, including name-calling by his manager and crude comments relating to his sexuality.
When he complained to his superiors, he was informed that the manager was ‘just doing his job’.
The second lawsuits is against IFCO Systems, a food pallet manufacturer in Maryland, which allegedly discriminated against a lesbian employee, Yolanda Boone.
Again, Boone says she endured verbal harassment, including a supervisor informing telling her that he wanted: ‘to turn you back into a woman’ and telling her she would ‘look good in a dress.’
When she complained to management, she was fired, says the EEOC.
EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said in a statement, ‘With the filing of these two suits, EEOC is continuing to solidify its commitment to ensuring that individuals are not discriminated against in workplaces because of their sexual orientation. While some federal courts have begun to recognize this right under Title VII, it is critical that all courts do so.’
Gay Star Business has approached Scott Medical Health Center and IFCO Systems for comment.
UPDATE: In a statement sent to Gay Star Business, Scott Medical Health Center, P.C, ‘categorically’ denied the allegations of harassment made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
‘According to its Director, “Scott Medical Center has a written policy against harassment, which is strictly enforced. We are proud of our long history of equal opportunity for all, regardless of race, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, age, or religion. We will vigorously ourselves against the false claims made by the EEOC.”’
In a statement, a legal representative for IFCO said: ‘Pallet Companies has a long-standing commitment to providing a work environment in which everyone is treated fairly and with respect, without regard to their sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender, race, nationality, age, disability, religion, marital status, or political opinion.
‘We have no tolerance for any such discrimination, harassment or retaliation in the workplace. We greatly value the diversity of the people with whom we work and the contributions they make to our business and our culture.
‘However, we strongly disagree with the allegations made in the lawsuit. While we cannot comment publicly on this matter, we will vigorously defend against this litigation.’