Western PA Federal Court Ruling Establishes Sexual Orientation as Protected Class in Workplace

A November 16 ruling by in the US Federal District for Western Pennsylvania paves the way for sexual orientation to be considered a protected class in the workplace.

Scott Medical Health Center has been ordered to pay $55,500 and provide written notifications of sex harassment allegations made in the next five years. The case, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of Dale Baxley, who claimed he was taunted for being gay by a supervisor. That same supervisor, Robert McClendon, was also the subject of numerous investigations over complaints filed by female employees.

From the Post-Gazette:

Attorneys for the EEOC, in a statement released on Monday, hailed the ruling as historic and said it set precedent that sexual orientation is a protected status in the workplace. The commission said it has stepped up protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under sex discrimination provisions as a national priority.

Though sexual orientation is not specifically protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which governs workplace discrimination, the EEOC interprets sex discrimination to include harassment against gay and transgender employees. 

Sex discrimination includes harassment of our community. This is particularly relevant as incidents of workplace sexual harassment in high profile industries continue to come to light. I myself wrote a post recently describing some of the experiences I’ve had here in this region as a woman and a queer person.

Kudos to Dale Baxley for seeing this through; suit was filed in 2013. I hope he finds some measure of satisfaction knowing he has helped to set a precedent to protect all of us.

I can’t even begin to tally the number of times people have reached out to me because of discrimination they’ve experienced in the workplace. There is no quick fix or swift justice in these matters, especially for individuals who have to focus their energy on finding a new source of income and whatever other economic fall-out they experience. And healing.

The next time you ask yourself why someone alleging abuse or harassment doesn’t come forward, perhaps you should stop to think about how many people you know who *have* come forward and saw a conclusion like this one. Did you applaud them and support them? Do you know their names, the people whose lives make up the court cases that have improved the workplace for all of us?

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EEOC ruling sexual orienation


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