Sexual Orientation Discrimination

December, 2016

Recent Cases Holding That Title VII Covers Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Although Title VII does not explicitly protect against sexual orientation discrimination, as stated under Connecticut law, recent federal district court cases have held that discrimination against a gay or lesbian individual is discrimination “because of sex” in violation of Title VII.

In a case handed down November 17, 2016, denying defendant’s summary judgment motion on this claim, Senior U.S. District Judge Warren Eginton ruled that first grade teacher Lisa Boutillier was entitled to protection under Title VII as a lesbian.  Boutillier v. Hartford Public Schools, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159093. Judge Eginton ruled that sex, sexual stereotypes and sexual orientation are intrinsically intertwined to be allowed protection under Title VII.

This case follows  a November 4th case in the federal Western District of Pennsylvania.  EEOC v. Scott Medical Health Center, Case 2:16-cv-00225-CB).   In that case, the EEOC charged that a gay male employee was subjected to sex discrimination in the form of harassment because of his sexual orientation and then forced to quit his job as a telemarketer rather than endure further harassment.

In the EEOC case, U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon, denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.  In its ruling, the court also found that sexual orientation discrimination is a type of discrimination “because of sex,” which is barred by Title VII.  The court’s decision is consistent with EEOC’s reading of Title VII’s sex discrimination ban.

CHRO Discrimination Complaints Increase

Recent statistics published by the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, (“CHRO”), reveal that in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, 2616 complaints were filed, which is a 43% increase from the 2482 complaints filed in 2015.

Of the total complaints, employment claims were the largest group at 2160.  Of those, complaints alleging racial discrimination were the largest at 616, followed by sexual discrimination claims at 532, physical disability claims at 520 and then age discrimination claims at 518.

So why the increase?  No one has a definite answer.  Some employers and their attorneys believe that the CHRO allows more cases to pass the Case Assessment Review than dismiss them.  Other guesses may be that since the CHRO requires more information on claims which require credibility determinations or disputed issues of fact, the CHRO allows for such claims to be investigated.


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