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Gay employee’s discrimination lawsuit can proceed, judge rules

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A federal district court judge is allowing a Library of Congress employee’s discrimination lawsuit to move forward in federal court, on the basis that the employee was denied promotions and subjected to a hostile work environment based on his sexual orientation. Buzzfeed reports that the employees challenge survived a motion to dismiss all of his claims against his employer.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of, among other things, a person’s sex. A prior Supreme Court case (Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins) has held that sex-stereotyping is a form of sex discrimination, and that it’s prohibited under Title VII. This lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff’s employer discriminated against him based on stereotypes about how men and women should act. He’s gay, and so his non-conformity with those stereotypes led his employer to discriminate. According to the ruling, that’s enough to allow the case to survive a motion to dismiss:

Plaintiff has alleged that he is “a homosexual male whose sexual orientation is not consistent with the Defendant’s perception of acceptable gender roles,” that his “status as a homosexual male did not conform to the Defendant’s gender stereotypes associated with men under Mech’s supervision or at the LOC,” and that “his orientation as homosexual had removed him from Mech’s preconceived definition of male.” As Plaintiff has alleged that Defendant denied him promotions and created a hostile work environment because of Plaintiff’s nonconformity with male sex stereotypes, Plaintiff has met his burden of setting forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Accordingly, the Court denies Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s sex discrimination claim (Count I) for failure to state a claim.

Importantly, the decision only declines to dismiss the case. It’s not final, and the allegations have to be proved in court. The defendants had argued that the employee failed to state a claim at all, and the judge disagreed. The merits of any claims aren’t at issue in a motion to dismiss.

As Buzzfeed notes though, since sexual orientation isn’t specifically mentioned in Title VII, many judges have been reluctant to allow those claims to go forward. Recent decisions involving sex-stereotyping based on someone’s gender identity have gotten a lot of attention.


  • 1. JayJonson  |  April 3, 2014 at 8:46 am

    This is a very important case. (And who would have thought that the LIbrary of Congress was such a hotbed of discrimination.) In addition to harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, the plaintiff alleges that was the target of religious discrimination–i.e., his supervisor, a conservative Catholic, was attempting to impose his religious beliefs on him. The Judge points out that Title VII not only protects people who are discriminated against because of their religious beliefs, but it also protects people who are harassed by people because of their religious beliefs or who are pressured to adopt someone else's religious beliefs. This case is as important for its clarification of religious rights–including the right to be free from the religious beliefs of others–as it is for its allegations of sexual orientation discrimination.

  • 2. Mike in Baltimore  |  April 3, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    I have conflicted feelings about this case.

    I have no doubts that a supervisor would have tried to use 'his influence' to convert someone to a different religion. And in doing that attempt to 'convert' someone to a different religion, the supervisor probably would use all means available, including 'teh gay' factor.

    But the part about the LoC? One of the people I've looked up to in the past was an employee of the LoC (classical music classifier in the Madison Building). When I first met Ken in the late 1970s, he had been working at the LoC for more than 20 years. He retired from the LoC in the mid 1990s. Everyone he worked with (including his supervisors), and many 'higher-ups' in the LoC, knew that Ken was gay, and no one 'held it against' him, as he was very competent in his job. Even by the time Ken retired was years before the GLBT community was given much respect by society at large, or even before many protections were on the book in DC or the Federal government. Even so, when I first met Ken, he generally had very good words about the LoC's working attitude for 'non-conforming' workers, and those attitudes kept getting better and better as the years went by.

    As for the religious beliefs part? All of the supervisors I worked under didn't hide their religious beliefs, but none tried to convert anyone to their religious philosophy. This included a couple of supervisors with whom I had very sharp philosophical differences on many matters. But my experience is by no means universal. I heard about some supervisors who tried (by subversive or coercive means) to convert people. None succeeded, but they tried, and kept trying. These are the types who need to be successfully sued for violations of the religious rights of their employees.

  • 3. JayJonson  |  April 4, 2014 at 8:10 am

    There will be a trial to determine whether the allegations are true or false. I suspect the plaintiff has evidence that he was unfairly treated. If not, his suit will not succeed. I would have thought that a place like the LoC would be inclusive–librarians, I would guess, are disproportionately gay or gay-friendly. But there are always exceptions.

  • 4. Mike in Baltimore  |  April 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    You have to remember that the LoC is an arm of Congress, and that since early 1995 to early next year, Republicans will have controlled the House of Representatives for 16 of those 20 years, and the Senate for more than 10 of those 20 years. What the lowest level employees (the librarians, for example) may want may not be the same as those in management.

  • 5. JayJonson  |  April 4, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Yes. It may also be relevant that when George W. Bush was in office the nondiscrimination protections for gay people were laughable. The clown in charge of enforcing those protections worked to erode them.

  • 6. The Sex Discrimination Ca&hellip  |  April 8, 2014 at 5:02 am

    […] in the workplace. At least, that’s the accepted narrative. However, one federal judge has just ruled that a gay man’s discrimination case against the Library of Congress can proceed on the […]

  • 7. writing service  |  April 11, 2014 at 1:04 am

    I totally agree that this prpblem requires more visibility and we can't keep silent on this important social problem. Accepting the problem is the first step to solving it. And it seems that the first step to solving the problem of gay employees' disrmination has already been made.

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