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Employers sued for discriminating based on sexual orientation

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or "EEOC") filed two lawsuits in the beginning of March. These two lawsuits allege employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Specifically, that these two employers allowed a pattern of hostile actions and harassment to take place and then retaliated against those employees when they lodged complaints.

The EEOC is looking to expand the list of protected "classes" of people. The EEOC alleges in the first lawsuit that a male employee was forced to quit due to the hostile work environment. Specifically that the employee was subjected to constant harassment by his co-workers and employer. That he filed official complaints but no actions were taken. He eventually quit due to the harassment.

In the second suit, the EEOC alleges that a female employee was fired due to her sexual orientation. Particularly, that her supervisor constantly harassed her and said he wanted to "turn her back into a woman." She filed official complaints and was eventually fired from her position.

Congress has yet to expand the definition of protected people in Title VII and the courts consistently rejected plaintiff's claims of discrimination however the EEOC is going to try its luck in the courts. At this point, employers are not required to implement policies designed to protect employees based on sexual orientation however, if the EEOC prevails, then these laws could change.

If your boss is discriminating against you based on your sexual orientation then you may want to consult with an attorney. Sexual orientation is currently not banned in federal law however the EEOC is looking to expand the protected peoples. This area of law is constantly in flux, an attorney can help you understand your options and determine the best course of action for you to take.

Source: JD Supra, "3 Strategies for Employers in Light of the EEOC's Title VII Lawsuits Alleging Sexual Orientation Discrimination," Summer Austin Wells, March 17, 2016

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