Harassment of Gay Worker Draws EEOC Lawsuit Against Employer

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By Kevin McGowan

An oil rig servicing company violated federal law by allowing the harassment of a gay employee because of his sexual orientation, the EEOC alleged in a lawsuit filed in federal court ( EEOC v. Rocky Mountain Casing Co. , D.N.D., No. 16-428, complaint filed 12/22/16 ).

Michael Allyn, who worked as a driver for Rocky Mountain Casing Co. in Williston, N.D., was subjected to offensive and homophobic slurs from his immediate supervisor and co-workers, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in the complaint filed Dec. 22.

The EEOC argues that bias based on sexual orientation is sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. During the past year, the agency has filed a number of Title VII lawsuits advancing that theory. No federal appeals court has yet ruled that Title VII reaches sexual orientation bias.

Allyn complained about the harassment, but the company failed to take corrective action, the EEOC said. It seeks compensatory damages for Allyn and injunctive relief to prevent further harassment.

Representatives of Rocky Mountain Casing declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Coverage Issue Pending in the Courts

A federal district court in Pittsburgh last month ruled that Title VII’s sex discrimination ban does prohibit bias based on sexual orientation.

Three federal appeals courts are currently considering the issue.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Nov. 30 heard oral argument regarding a lesbian college instructor’s Title VII claim of sexual orientation bias. On Dec. 15, the Eleventh Circuit heard oral argument on the same issue in a lesbian hospital employee’s Title VII case. The Second Circuit will hear argument Jan. 20 on the Title VII harassment claim of a gay employee of Omnicom Group Inc.

The EEOC has filed briefs supporting the workers in all three cases.

The commission in June settled for $200,000 its Title VII lawsuit against a Baltimore company that allegedly allowed the harassment of a lesbian employee because of her sexual orientation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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