In March, I reported that the EEOC brought its first sexual orientation discrimination cases under Title VII’s prohibition on workplace discrimination based upon sex of the employee. A press release from the EEOC states that one of the case, the one in Maryland, has settled. From the release:
EEOC charged that a lesbian employee at IFCO’s Baltimore facility was repeatedly harassed by her supervisor because of her sexual orientation. Her supervisor made numerous comments to her regarding her sexual orientation and appearance, such as “I want to turn you back into a woman” and “You would look good in a dress,” according to the suit. EEOC charged that the supervisor also made sexually suggestive gestures to her. IFCO retaliated against the female employee by firing her just days after she complained to management and called the employee hotline to report the harassment, according to the suit.
The two-year consent decree requires IFCO to pay $182,200 in monetary relief to the female employee and donate $20,000 to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to support the Human Rights Campaign’s Workplace Equality Program. The decree enjoins IFCO from engaging in sex discrimination or retaliation in the future. The company will retain an expert on sexual orientation, gender identity, and transgender training to assist in developing a training program for IFCO’s top managers, supervisors and employees on LGBT workplace issues. IFCO will also distribute its equal employment opportunity policies and toll-free employee hotline number and Web address to all employees in its north region. The company will provide the female employee with a letter of reference. Finally, IFCO will also post a notice about the settlement and report to EEOC on its compliance with the decree, including how it handled any complaints of sexual orientation discrimination.
Cases settle for a variety of reasons, but this case marks the first at the federal level where sex discrimination has been extended to include sexual orientation. The other case in Pennsylvania continues.
Note: I mediate for the Philadelphia office of the EEOC (which brought these cases) but was not involved in these cases or any sexual orientation discrimination cases.