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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Are Employees Protected From Harassment Because Of Their Perceived Sexual Orientation?

Discrimination concept of one clothespin in a group of other clothespins. 3d illustration

For more than twenty years, our Marion County, Florida sexual orientation discrimination attorneys have represented Florida employees who have been required to work in a hostile environment. Having decades of litigation experience against employers who have subjected their employees to unlawful employment practices, our Ocala, Florida sexual orientation discrimination lawyers know that many employers continue to believe they are lawfully permitted to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation. In its recent landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S.Ct. 1731 (2020), the U.S. Supreme Court swept aside decades of federal court precedent and held that discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status constitutes unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). In this article, our Marion County, Florida sexual orientation discrimination lawyers attorneys explain how the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock also protects employees from being discriminated against on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination Is Unlawful

Title VII makes it an unlawful employment practice for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of sex. In interpreting Title VII, the Supreme Court has determined that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII. When sexual harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile work environment, Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination is violated.

In holding that discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, the Bostock Court also ruled that harassment on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII. When an employee is harassed on the basis of sexual orientation, and the harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s work environment, the harassment is a form of unlawful sex discrimination. The recent decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Roberts v. Glenn Industrial Group, Inc., Case No. 19-1215 (4th Cir. May 24, 2021) demonstrates that, consistent with Bostock that Title VII also protects employees from harassment because of their perceived sexual orientation.

Worker Claims Hostile Work Environment

In that case, a male employee, Roberts, brought a sexual harassment claim against his former employer, Glenn Industrial Group, Inc. (Glenn Industrial), pursuant to Title VII. Roberts maintains that he was required to work in a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII.

Roberts claims that, from the beginning of his employment with Glenn Industrial, he was subjected to unwanted harassment by his male supervisor, Rhyner. Rhyner’s alleged harassing behavior included repeatedly calling Roberts “gay” and making sexually explicit remarks towards Roberts, including comments about Roberts’ performing oral sex on men for money. Rhyner also allegedly physically assaulted Roberts on at least two occasions. Roberts complained to Rhyner’s supervisor, Evans, at least four times over the course of his employment. Evans told Roberts to “suck it up.”

In defending against Roberts’ sexual harassment claim, Glenn Industrial attempted to reframe Roberts’ claim that he was harassed because of his sex as a claim that he was harassed because of his perceived sexual orientation. Finding Glenn Industrial’s argument persuasive, the trial court dismissed Roberts’ sexual harassment claim.

Sexual Orientation Harassment Is Unlawful

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed the trial court’s dismissal and reinstated Roberts’ sexual harassment claim. In doing so, the Fourth Circuit rejected Glenn Industrial’s attempt to reframe Roberts’ claim that he was harassed because of his sex as a claim that he was harassed because of his perceived sexual orientation. Glenn Industrial’s argument was legally flawed, the Fourth Circuit reasoned, because it “is based on a belief that Title VII affords Roberts no protection for such a claim.” Glenn Industrial’s argument was legally erroneous, the Fourth Circuit explained, because the Supreme Court in Bostock “held that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII because to discriminate on these grounds requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex.” Thus, the Fourth Circuit recognized under Bostock any harassment of Roberts because of his perceived sexual orientation constituted harassment because of his sex in violation of Title VII. Consequently, the Fourth Circuit remanded Roberts’ sexual harassment claim to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion that Roberts was protected by Title VII from harassment because of his perceived sexual orientation.

Free Consultation For Harassment Victims

One of the most important decisions sexual harassment victims must make is deciding which employment law firm to consult with regarding their legal rights. At our employment law firm, an experienced employment attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations and you will never have to pay to speak with our employment attorneys regarding your workplace issues.

Ocala, FL Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida sexual orientation discrimination attorneys have fought for employee rights for more than twenty years. If you have been discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or have questions about your protection from sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida sexual orientation discrimination lawyers.

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