The first of two landmark lawsuits brought by the US’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against private employers was settled Thursday.
The lawsuits are the first to be instigated by the EEOC for plaintiffs who said they had been discriminated against for being gay. They were filed at the beginning of March.
The legal action followed last July’s landmark ruling by the EEOC that gay and lesbian staff could claim sexual orientation discrimination as a form of sex discrimination.
According to court papers, one of the companies concerned has agreed to pay $200,000 to settle its case – the bulk of the money going to a former lesbian employer.
Yolanda Boone said that she was harassed by other employees at Pallet Cos. in Maryland. The company, which operates as IFCO Systems, makes food packaging pallets.
Boone says she endured verbal harassment, including a supervisor informing telling her that he wanted: ‘to turn you back into a woman’, asking ‘Are you a girl or a man?’ and telling her she would ‘look good in a dress.’
After she complained to management, she was fired.
In a comment to Bloomberg BNA, Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, described the settlement as a ‘very positive resolution’ that ‘reflects the EEOC’s commitment’ to taking legal action over sexual orientation claims of discrimination.
In a lengthy statement to GSN, Pallet Cos. said: ‘After recognizing Pallet Companies’ almost 10-year committment to preventing sexual orientation discrimination and harassment in its workplace, a federal judge entered a Consent Decree resolving in its entirety the EEOC concerns about the treatment of a former employer at the company’s Baltimore plant.
‘The Consent Decree also notes that Pallet Companies denied any wrongdoing and did not admit to any discrimination, harassment or retaliation on the basis of the employee’s sexual orientation.
‘”We believe the EEOC appreciate our culure and our collaborative approach to resolving the dispute, and worked with us in good faith to achieve an amicable settlement,” said the Company’s spokesperson. “We’ve very pleased with this outcome and that we were able to reach the agreement reached in the Consent Decree.”‘
EEOC have declined to comment further.
The second lawsuit raised by the EEOC in March was against Pennsylvania-based Scott Medical Health Center. Dale Baxley, a gay employee with the company, said he resigned after facing continual harassment, including name-calling by his manager and crude comments relating to his sexuality.
When he complained to his superiors, he was informed that the manager was ‘just doing his job’. That lawsuit is still pending.