The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and an employer have settled a case for approximately $200,000. This is one of the EEOC’s first lawsuits against a private employer, alleging that sexual orientation discrimination occurred, and that it violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The EEOC filed a complaint against a packaging supplies company on behalf of a lesbian former employee, who said that she was harassed because of her sexual orientation. She claims she was fired in retaliation after complaining about the harassment. The company must pay the former employee over $180,000. In addition, the company must donate $20,000 to an LGBT rights advocacy organization.

The company must also develop an employee training program that includes a module on LGBT workplace issues. The training will be presented to all employees in the company’s northern region. The company also must post workplace notices informing employees that Title VII prohibits sex discrimination and retaliation, and that the company will make hiring and employment decisions without regard to an employee or applicant’s sexual orientation. The company will also distribute to all employees copies of the equal employment opportunity policy as well as wallet cards that contain the phone number of a company hotline for any complaints of bias.

Under Title VII, sexual orientation is not a protected category. However, the EEOC contends that bias based on sexual orientation is inherently sex discrimination. To date, no federal appeals court has ruled that Title VII prohibits bias based on sexual orientation.

The cases began on March 1st, when the EEOC filed two separate lawsuits against the packaging supplies company, as well as a medical center. These were the first two EEOC complaints against private employers alleging that sexual orientation discrimination violated Title VII. The lawsuit against the medical center is still pending.

Gay rights activists are excited that the EEOC is now litigating the issue of sexual orientation discrimination under the Title VII umbrella. Currently, there are 22 states with laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, but advocates say it is critical to have a national standard that protects workers in every state.

Although sexual orientation discrimination has been illegal for some time in California, it appears that it may be upheld as illegal under federal law soon as well. If you have been rejected for employment, fired, or otherwise harmed in your employment because of your sexual orientation, you may have suffered illegal discrimination. Some examples of sexual orientation discrimination include if you apply for a job for which you are very well-qualified, but you are not hired because you are gay, if another employee in a similar position with similar training and experience is promoted and you are not because you are gay, or if your company’s health insurance policy refuses to cover your spouse, but does cover straight employees’ spouses.

If any of these things have happened to you on the job, you may have suffered sexual orientation discrimination. If you have been harassed because of your sexual orientation, you may also be able to sue for harassment, as well. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty and Seth I. Rosenberg believe that anyone who is discriminated against or harassed because of his or her sexual orientation should pursue their legal rights under state and local law. Call the Oakland sexual orientation discrimination attorneys at Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. We can help. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights.

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