First EEOC LGBT suit has Philly connection

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week filed its first-ever lawsuits regarding sexual orientation-discrimination, one of which is being handled by the agency’s Philadelphia office.

The EEOC filed suit Tuesday against a Pittsburgh-based medical clinic and a Maryland pallet-distribution company, charging antigay workplace discrimination at both. The challenges were made possible last year, after the EEOC determined that discrimination based on sexual orientation is protected under a federal statute that prohibits sex-based discrimination.

In the Pennsylvania case, the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office is suing Scott Medical Health Center in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on behalf of former Scott Medical employee Dale Baxley. Baxley contends his former supervisor called him antigay epithets and made other offensive comments about his sexuality in the workplace. The employee quit after the company refused to discipline the manager.

Similarly, the Maryland case contends a former lesbian employee at IFCO Systems was harassed by her supervisor, who made comments such as, “I want to turn you back into a woman.” She was fired just days after filing a grievance about the situation.

“With the filing of these two suits, EEOC is continuing to solidify its commitment to ensuring that individuals are not discriminated against in workplaces because of their sexual orientation,” EEOC general counsel David Lopez said in a press release. “While some federal courts have begun to recognize this right under Title VII, it is critical that all courts do so.”

EEOC noted that both suits were filed after pre-litigation settlement talks failed.

Pennsylvania is one of several-dozen states that lacks an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law. Efforts to explicitly ban LGBT workplace discrimination at the federal level have long stalled in Congress.