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EEOC Settles First Sexual Orientation Discrimination Suit

On July 6, 2016 by Schnader in Labor and Employment

By Jo Bennett

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced last week that it had settled a suit against Pallet Companies (doing business as IFCO Systems) for $202,200.  As we previously discussed here, this suit is one of the first cases filed by the EEOC in which the agency contends that the prohibition of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to sexual orientation.

According to the complaint, a lesbian employee at IFCO’s Baltimore facility was harassed by her supervisor because of her sexual orientation. When she complained to management and called the employee hotline to report the harassment, she was fired.

Under a consent decree, IFCO Systems agreed to pay $182,200 to the employee and to donate $20,000 to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to support that organization’s workplace equality program.  The consent decree also requires the company to hire an expert on sexual orientation and gender identity to develop a training program for IFCO Systems’ managers, supervisors and employees.

Protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan. Therefore, employers may want to review their EEO policies and amend them where necessary to include LGBT workers. In addition, employers may want to consider training for supervisors and managers on sexual orientation and gender identity issues in the workplace.