Feds Reach First-Ever Settlement over Sexual Orientation Discrimination
EEOC sued company for discriminating against lesbian employee
Mark down June 23, 2016, as a historic day for lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender (LGBT) workers. That’s the day that the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) secured the first-ever settlement in a sexual
orientation discrimination lawsuit.
While no new laws have been written that address this issue, last year
the EEOC took matters into its own hands. As the federal agency charged
with enforcing discrimination laws, in 2015 the EEOC announced that it
would begin treating sexual orientation discrimination cases the same
way it does unlawful sex discrimination.
This recent settlement shows that the agency has wasted little time putting
that promise into action.
Manager wouldn’t let up
Yolanda Boone worked for Pallet Companies, a packaging supply company doing
business as IFCO Systems. She claims that she was terminated just days
after making an official complaint about her boss’s harassing behavior.
Boone, a lesbian, alleges that her supervisor repeatedly made inappropriate
comments pertaining to her sexual orientation. In her lawsuit, she claims
that he made statements such as “I want to turn you back into a
woman” and “You would look good in a dress.”
He also pretended to blow kisses at her and sometimes made lewd gestures
with his tongue.
Boone complained to a manager. However, her complaint wasn’t taken
seriously. She was told that her supervisor was “just doing his
job.” Frustrated, Boone called the employee hotline to report the
situation. She was terminated within a few days of making the call.
Sought legal counsel
Boone filed a complaint with the EEOC, which sued her former employer on
Rather than take its chances in front of a jury, the company agreed to
settle the case. It must pay out a total of $202,000. Boone will receive
$182,200, and $20,000 will go to the Human Rights Campaign's Workplace
(For more information, see this news release
from the EEOC.)
What it means to employees
It’s important to know that in addition to federal protection, some
states and municipalities may also have their own legislation regarding
sexual orientation. If you feel that you’ve been unlawfully discriminated
against because of your sexual orientation, it’s wise to seek legal
counsel to find out which laws may apply to you.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.