Workers in Wisconsin may want to follow two recently filed lawsuits as they progress through the federal court system. The lawsuits, both filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will test whether gay and lesbian people are protected against discrimination in the workplace.
The EEOC ruled in 2015 that discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation is a form of prohibited sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There has been no federal appellate court ruling about whether gay and lesbian people are protected by the act, however. The cases will likely end up going before the U.S. Supreme Court so the question can be answered.
In one of the cases, a lesbian woman was told that her supervisor wanted to make her into a woman and that she would look nice in a dress. After she complained, the company then fired her, allegedly as retaliation. The other case involves a gay man who was called gay slurs and was repeatedly discriminated against at his job. He complained and then quit his job.
Employment law includes provisions forbidding discrimination in the workplace based on a person’s protected status. These cases will help to establish whether or not a person’s sexual orientation is also a protected status since it is not explicitly listed in the law. People who believe that they have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation should start by filing a complaint with their employer using the outlined process. If that doesn’t work or if they are then retaliated against, they may want to want to have the assistance of counsel in filing a claim with the EEOC.
Source: International Business Times, “Equal Employment Opportunity Commission files first lawsuits against employers for discrimination over sexual orientation,” Cole Stangler, March 1, 2016