The EEOC has recently filed several lawsuits alleging that employers discriminated against employees based upon their sexual orientation. (This is a link to the EEOC’s press release about these suits. https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/3-1-16.cfm)
This week Pallet Companies/IFCO Systems agreed to settle their suit by paying $202,200.00. The former employee will be paid $182,000.00 and the remainder of the settlement proceeds will be donated to the Workplace Equality Program of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group. Pallet Companies has also agreed to provide training to its employees developed by an LGBT expert and it will be under a consent decree for two years.
In the suit, the former employee alleged that her supervisor, a man, harassed her because she was a lesbian. She claimed that the supervisor made frequent comments about her sexual orientation, such as “I want to turn you back into a woman.” and commented on the way that she dressed. The employee complained to management and called the company’s 1-800 complaint hotline. She was fired a few days later. Since the suit was settled shortly after it was filed, we don’t know what reasons Pallet Companies was going to offer for terminating the claimant. Suffice it to say that Pallet Companies was sufficiently concerned about its exposure to settle for a significant sum of money.
Sexual orientation is a relatively new protected classification. Employers need to take steps to ensure that their employees are aware of this fact.