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EEOC files suits over sexual-orientation discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges that the private employers involved in two lawsuits committed sexual-orientation discrimination. New York workers may know that there is a split among federal courts over whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits this behavior.

In one of the EEOC cases, a lesbian woman who worked at a Maryland company claims that the night-shift manager started to harass her after she began working extra evening hours to supplement her income. The manager made apparent sexual gestures and quoted biblical passages to her. She notified human resources, her supervisor and general manager, but they did nothing to stop the behavior. The company asked her to resign later and then fired her when she refused.

In the other lawsuit, a gay man who worked at a Pittsburgh health care facility claims that his supervisor regularly made offensive remarks to him about his sexual orientation. Even though the worker reported the behavior to the president of the company, nothing happened to stop the behavior. The sexually hostile environment forced the man to resign.

These filings are part of the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan, which recognizes that protecting bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender employees is a priority general counsel. The American Civil Liberties Union reports that 22 states have enacted legislation that bans sexual-orientation discrimination, but some federal courts have ruled the opposite. A New York federal court, for example, found that Title VII does not protect against this type of discrimination despite it noting that the behavior is reprehensible.

Workers who believe that they are victims of sexual-orientation discrimination may not get the response that they expect when they report it to human resources or management. In such a case, they may want to meet with an attorney to learn how to file a claim with the EEOC.

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