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EEOC files its first-ever sexual orientation bias lawsuits

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday said it has filed its first two lawsuits charging sex discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The agency has previously indicated its position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers against sexual orientation discrimination, though federal laws do not explicitly prohibit it.

The agency said in a statement that it filed one lawsuit against Pittsburgh-based Scott Medical Health Center P.C. in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh charging that the medical center had subjected a gay male employee to harassment because of his sexual orientation. The other lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, charged Houston-based Pallet Cos. Inc. with harassing a lesbian employee.

In the medical center case, the EEOC said the unnamed male employee's manager repeatedly referred to him using various anti-gay epithets and other offensive comments about his sexuality and sex life. The agency said the employee quit rather than endure further harassment.

In the Baltimore case, the EEOC said the unnamed employee's supervisor made numerous comments regarding her sexual orientation and appearance, such as “I want to turn you back into a woman.” The employee was fired a few days after she complained, according to the agency.

Both lawsuits charge violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“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,” said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez in the statement. “While some federal courts have begun to recognize this right under Title VII, it is critical that all courts do so.”

Spokesmen for Scott Medical and Pallet could not immediately be reached for comment.