June 29, 2016 at 8:40 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
EEOC reaches first-ever settlement in anti-gay bias case
EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, gay news, Washington Blade

The EEOC has reached its first-ever settlement in a case alleging anti-gay discrimination. (Image public domain)

The U.S. agency charged with enforcing federal employment non-discrimination law announced late Tuesday it has reached its first-ever settlement in a lawsuit alleging anti-gay bias in the workplace.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reached the agreement in a case against Pallet Companies, doing business as IFCO Systems, which agreed to pay $202,200 and provide significant equitable relief as a result of a lesbian employee alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Filed in federal court in Maryland in June, the lawsuit alleged Pallet Companies fired a lesbian after she complained to management because her supervisor was harassing her based on sexual orientation. According to the EEOC, the supervisor made sexually suggestive gestures and numerous derogatory comments to the worker, such as “I want to turn you back into a woman” and “You would look good in a dress.”

The lawsuit was one of two that were the first EEOC filed alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation.

David Lopez, EEOC’s general counsel, said the agreement marks the first time EEOC has reached a settlement in a case alleging anti-gay bias in the the workplace.

“This consent decree marks EEOC’s first resolution of a suit challenging discrimination based on sexual orientation under Title VII,” Lopez said. “EEOC is committed to ensuring that individuals are not subjected to discriminatory treatment in workplaces based on their sexual orientation and looks forward to the day that this fundamental right is widely recognized.”

Among the stipulations required of IFOC in the two-year consent decree is paying $182,200 in monetary relief to the female employee; making a donation of $20,000 to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to support the Human Rights Campaign’s Workplace Equality Program; and refraining from sex discrimination or retaliation in the future.

Federal law doesn’t explicitly bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but the EEOC argued the prohibition on gender bias under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers anti-gay discrimination. The agency first reached that conclusion in the case of Baldwin v. Foxx, which the EEOC allowed to proceed under Title VII last year.

Although EEOC claims the settlement is the first the agency has reached in a lawsuit alleging anti-gay discrimination, it’s not the first time for such an agreement generally. Last year, gay worker Peter TerVeer reached a settlement of $235,000 with the Library of Congress after filing a lawsuit alleging he was fired based on anti-gay discrimination.

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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