Are Workers Protected From Harassment About A Rumored Same-Sex Relationship?
For more than twenty years, our LGBTQ rights lawyers in Citrus County, Florida have litigated employment discrimination cases in Florida courts. Having decades of experience representing employment discrimination victims, our LGBTQ rights attorneys in Inverness, Florida know that many employees are harassed based on their perceived sexual orientation. In far too many cases, the harassment employees endure based on their perceived sexual orientation is especially egregious because many employers mistakenly believe that employees are not protected from discrimination or harassment on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation. Based on this erroneous belief, employers take no remedial action to protect employees from harassment on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation. In this article, our LGBTQ rights lawyers in Citrus County, Florida explain how the decision in Wilson v. City of Greenville,2023 WL 7021295 (N.D. Miss. Oct. 25, 2023) demonstrates that federal employment discrimination law protects employees from harassment on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation.
LGBTQ Employee Rights
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sex. In its landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S.Ct. 1731 (2020), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII. In holding that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status is an unlawful employment practice under Title VII, the Supreme Court swept aside decades of federal court precedent that gave employers a license to discriminate against LGBTQ employees. In interpreting and applying Bostock, federal courts have determined that in protecting employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Title VII also protects employees from discrimination on the basis of perceived sexual orientation.
Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawsuit
In Wilson, a man Wilson named brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, the City of Greensville (“the City”), pursuant to Title VII. Wilson alleges that he was harassed on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation in violation of Title VII. Harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination forbidden by Title VII. To violate Title VII, the harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working environment.
Wilson was employed by the City as police chief from 2015 until 2021. Wilson contends that a member of the City’s city council, Banks, routinely made sexually charged comments towards him regarding his attractiveness and commented about how they would be having sex if Wilson was not married. Wilson alleges that these comments would come from Banks not only at work, but that Banks would also call and harass him. Wilson claims that he not only refused Banks’ purported sexual advances but reported them as well so that the City was aware. Wilson maintains that he was told by the City that the alleged sexual harassment would stop if he just had sex with Banks.
Wilson further alleges that Banks would routinely question the relationship between Wilson and the assistant police chief, Merchant, insinuating or stating that they were gay in a relationship with each other. Wilson maintains that Merchant’s sexual orientation was questioned multiple times by Banks and that Banks allegedly discussed Merchant’s sexual orientation on numerous occasions, both in and out of the presence of Merchant. Wilson claims that that he was informed that Banks was “coming for” him and Merchant, and that Banks told him in 2020 that if he “got rid of Merchant” he would be safe. Wilson contends that he had no issue with Merchant and would not participate in attempting to terminate Merchant’s employment.
Despite his complaint, Wilson claims that the harassment in the form of sexual orientation rumors continued, and that the Mayor and other city council members began pressuring Wilson to resign. Wilson maintains that he refused to resign. Wilson contends that the City then began fabricating his termination, manufacturing documents that showed he had resigned on January 5, 2021, and then attempted to rescind his resignation on January 19, 2021. Wilson alleges that, on February 1, 2021, he was instructed to clear out his office.
Protection From Hostile Environment Harassment
The City filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Wilson’s sexual orientation discrimination claim. In denying the City’s motion for dismissal, the trial court found that Wilson had alleged sufficient facts to plausibly establish that he was harassed because of his sex or perceived sexual orientation in violation of Title VII. The trial court observed that Wilson alleges that “there were multiple instances where [ ] Banks made sexually charged comments towards him regarding his attractiveness and commented about how they would be having sex if [ ] Wilson was not married.” The trial court also pointed out that Wilson claims that Banks made comments, “both at work, in public, and in private, about his rumored sexual orientation and alleged homosexual relationship with [ ] Merchant.” Based on these allegations, the trial court concluded, Wilson had sufficiently alleged that he was required to work in a hostile environment in violation of Title VII.
Free Consultation For LGBTQ Employees
One of the most important decisions LGBTQ employees must make is which employment discrimination attorneys to consult with regarding their LBBTQ employee rights under federal employment discrimination law. As part of our dedication to helping employment discrimination victims, an experienced employment law attorney will speak with you personally and you will receive the individualized attention your case deserves. We offer free confidential case evaluations for employees, and you will not have to pay to speak with our LGBTQ rights attorneys regarding your employee rights. We are available for consultation at your convenience, including scheduling telephone consultations for evenings and weekends.
Citrus County LGBTQ Rights Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our LGBTQ rights attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employment discrimination victims. If you have experienced sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace or have questions about your protection from sexual orientation discrimination under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our LGBTQ rights lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.