Settlement of Sexual Orientation Case – The EEOC and a Maryland employer have settled a landmark sexual orientation discrimination case.  EEOC v. Pallet Companies d/b/a IFCO Systems NA, Inc. was filed in March 2016, and was among one of the earliest EEOC lawsuits against a private employer, alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  At the same time that the EEOC filed this case, the agency also filed suit for discrimination based on sexual orientation in Pennsylvania federal court against Scott Medical Health Center of Pittsburgh, which we reported on at the time. The Pennsylvania case is still pending.

The lawsuit alleged that employee, Yolanda Boone, was repeatedly harassed by her supervisor because of her sexual orientation.  Her supervisor allegedly made comments to her about her sexual orientation and her appearance, such as: “I want to turn you back into a woman” and “you would look good in a dress.”  It is also alleged that the supervisor “blew a kiss at her and circled his tongue at her in a suggestive manner.”  After Boone reported the incidents to management and called an employee hotline, she was fired, supposedly in retaliation.

Under the terms of the Maryland settlement, Pallet Companies will pay $202,000 to settle the case: $182,200 will be paid to Boone, and $20,000 will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s workplace equality program.  The settlement also provides that the employer will strengthen its discrimination policies by developing an employee training program that has a section on LGBT workplace issues, and it will post workplace notices informing employees that the company “will conduct its hiring and employment practices without regard” to an individual’s sexual orientation.  In addition, all employees will receive wallet cards containing the toll-free number and web address of the company’s hotline for bias complaints.

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