Boss Assumed That Gay Employee Must Have AIDS
Supervisor drew pictures that mocked man’s supposed effeminate mannerisms
Your boss seems uncomfortable that you’re in a same-sex marriage.
He makes lewd comments about your “plumbing.” He jokes about
whether you or your spouse will be the mommy if and when you have kids.
It makes your blood boil.
Beyond that, it may be unlawful. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
prohibits discrimination because of a person's sex. Whether that prohibition
includes discrimination based on sexual orientation has been litigated
Let’s discuss a recent case that resulted in a settlement in favor
of a man who claimed he was discriminated against due to his sexual orientation.
Didn’t conform to gender stereotypes
Matthew Christiansen, an employee at Omnicon Group International, sued
his employer for workplace discrimination. He claimed he was treated unfairly
due to his HIV–positive status and his failure to conform to gender
Christiansen alleges that his supervisor engaged in repeated harassment,
including drawing sexually suggestive drawings targeting Christiansen’s
supposed effeminate mannerisms and sexual orientation.
While Christiansen had not disclosed that he was HIV-positive, Christiansen's
supervisor allegedly told other employees that Christiansen “was
effeminate and gay so he must have AIDS.”
Initially Christiansen’s case was thrown out. The court held that
Title VII does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Christiansen appealed.
However, an appeals court allowed the case to proceed. In its opinion,
the court referred to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated that
discrimination rooted in sex stereotyping or gender stereotyping constitutes
In that ruling, the court found that sexual-orientation discrimination
is discrimination because of sex because such discrimination is rooted in gender stereotypes, such as the
idea that men should be exclusively attracted to women and women should
be exclusively attracted to men.
For that reason, the court found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals
do not have less protection against gender stereotype discrimination than
Rather than continue to fight the case, the company agreed to settle.
What it means to you
Case law pertaining to issues around gender identity and gender stereotypes
is still evolving. Because few federal laws exist that pertain directly
to these issues, it is currently largely left to the judicial system to
decide how existing discrimination laws may or may not apply.
If you believe you have been the victim of sexual orientation discrimination,
you should consult an attorney who is experienced in pursuing these types
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.