December 7, 2011 | by Chris Johnson
Ohio lesbian wins $100K settlement in bias lawsuit

A lesbian in Ohio has been awarded a $100,000 settlement in an employment discrimination lawsuit she filed after she was repeatedly denied promotions by state government employers.

Shari Hutchinson, the recipient of the settlement, claimed that she faced discrimination based on her sexual orientation while working first as a support officer and then an account clerk for the Child Support Enforcement Agency for Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

“On my first day working for the County, I was given the Policies Manual and I was so thrilled to see that discrimination due to sexual orientation would not be tolerated,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “But after continuously losing promotions when I had scored the highest on the County’s qualifying exam, and watching the jobs go instead to people who had failed the tests or had not even completed the application, I learned there was a glass ceiling for a lesbian woman like me.”

According to Freedom to Work, Hutchinson holds an advance degree in business and had nearly 20 years of private sector management experience before joining the agency. But after her co-workers and managers learned that she was a lesbian, they passed her over for several promotions that went to less qualified applicants, including straight employees who didn’t pass required tests or comply with other procedures.

Neither state law in Ohio nor federal law prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. Hutchison filed her lawsuit, known as Hutchinson v. Cuyahoga County, on the basis that the alleged discrimination violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Attorney Elizabeth Wells represented Hutchinson in the case.

In the aftermath of the lawsuit, Hutchinson is joining Freedom to Work as a member of the organization’s “Speakers Bureau,” a group of LGBT individuals affected by workplace discrimination who are working to bring visibility to their cases to encourage Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, hailed the win for Hutchinson and said he welcomes her to his organization.

“Shari’s victory is important in legal terms, and also because she has committed to advocating for a federal law to finally ban workplace discrimination against all LGBT Americans,” Almeida said.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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