New York employees who may have been adversely affected by sexual harassment in the workplace may be interested in one case that could ultimately have far-reaching implications. On Nov. 4, a federal judge in Pennsylvania accepted arguments that alleged anti-gay discrimination was based on sex stereotypes, which violates protections that are offered by Title VII. Of additional import, however, is a footnote by the judge noting that a "compelling juxtaposition" concerning racial discrimination was also presented in the matter.
The case under consideration was brought against Scott Medical Health Center by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in response to actions taken by one employee that allegedly created a hostile work environment for a subordinate. The employee whose rights were allegedly violated appears to have been subjected to multiple incidents of anti-gay harassment in the workplace on a weekly basis. In earlier cases, the EEOC had presented a similar argument, and precedent had been previously established in at least one Supreme Court case.
The second compelling argument that was advanced by the plaintiff and subsequently noted by the judge drew a comparison between discrimination that is based on sex stereotypes and that based on interracial relationships. This latter rationale was not fully examined by the court in this case because the sex stereotyping argument was found to be sufficiently compelling and dispositive to allow the trial to proceed.
The case will move forward while providing a new lens through which the many open discrimination cases on file in New York and elsewhere might be considered. In the meantime, employees who find themselves facing a hostile work environment may want to meet with an attorney to learn about the options that might be available to them.