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 her behalf.
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 Equality Program.
(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.