When employers engage in discrimination, the federal government sometimes takes action directly in the form of a lawsuit if a resolution can’t be reached any other way.
For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has just filed a lawsuit against a company that runs multiple assisted living facilities and nursing homes in Southern Ohio.
EEOC says the employee’s sexual orientation, not work, was the issue
According to the lawsuit, the discrimination began when a new regional director took over in 2020 – the year after the man was hired. The new director reportedly limited the man’s authority as well as his access to needed materials. According to the suit, “The reduction adversely affected the scope of (his) position and capacity to carry out his assigned duties.”
The new regional director later reportedly told the employee the company was going in a “different direction” and asked for his resignation. When he refused to resign, he was fired later that year. The suit contends that the man never had an unfavorable performance review and “believed he was performing the job well.”
Even though employers typically have the right to terminate employees for any reason they choose, they can’t do so for any reason that’s illegal, such as discrimination against a protected class. According to the EEOC, the company “discriminated against the maintenance director because of his sexual orientation, including falsely accusing him of performance deficiencies….”
Sexual orientation is a protected class under federal law
A U.S. Supreme Court decision that broadened the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition against discrimination on “the basis of sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
It can sometimes be difficult to prove that a firing or other negative workplace action occurred because of discrimination. Some employers are good at covering their tracks by leaving a solid paper trail like performance improvement plans (PIPs) and increasingly negative reviews. Others are surprisingly overt about their feelings regarding people based on their race, sexual orientation, religion, disability and more.
If you believe that you’re being discriminated against or have been terminated because of your identity, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to better determine your next steps.