The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has for the first time filed cases against two employers in the U.S., alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation. Their claim – that the alleged discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In the first of these two cases, the EEOC is requiring that the employer in question, IFCO Systems, provide companywide LBGT training on sexual orientation and sexual identity issues. The special training will be offered as part of an hour-long equal employment opportunity and harassment session for the company’s general manager, vice president of operations, regional operations directors, plant managers, assistant plant managers, HR directors and HR regional field operations managers nationwide.
What this news means to employers in Connecticut
While matters related to sexual orientation and civil rights have received much attention in the last 18 months at the level of the federal government, Connecticut has already prohibited sexual orientation and gender identity/expression discrimination under state law for many years now. So, while this decision by the EEOC suggests that the Commission is in fact going to take an aggressive approach to broadening the interpretation of discrimination to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and while courts around the country are also showing more interest in upholding sexual orientation claims under Title VII, Connecticut employers are already prohibited from engaging in the following types of unlawful discrimination:
- Failing to hire an applicant because she is a transgender woman.
- Firing an employee because he is planning or has made a gender transition.
- Denying an employee equal access to a common restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity.
- Harassing an employee because of a gender transition, such as by intentionally and persistently failing to use the name and gender pronoun that correspond to the gender identity with which the employee identifies, and which the employee has communicated to management and employees.
- Denying an employee a promotion because he is gay or straight.
- Discriminating in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, such as providing a lower salary to an employee because of sexual orientation, or denying spousal health insurance benefits to a female employee because her legal spouse is a woman, while providing spousal health insurance to a male employee whose legal spouse is a woman.
- Harassing an employee because of his or her sexual orientation, for example, by derogatory terms, sexually oriented comments, or disparaging remarks for associating with a person of the same or opposite sex.
- Discriminating against or harassing an employee because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, in combination with another unlawful reason, for example, on the basis of transgender status and race, or sexual orientation and disability.
If you’re an employer and have concerns about the proper handling of sexual orientation and sexual identity issues, consider calling on the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale in Connecticut. We do one thing and one thing only – we are an employer defense law firm – in fact, we are one of the largest employer defense law firms in the region. What’s more, each of our attorneys have over 20 years of experience in employment law and labor law matters and can provide your business with comprehensive legal counsel ranging from assistance with necessary preventive measures to trial advocacy. Please contact us if we can help you.
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