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A U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh has ordered a medical health center to pay $55,500 in damages in the first sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency said Monday.
The lawsuit charged that Pittsburgh-based Scott Medical Health Center P.C. had subjected Dale Massaro, a gay male employee, to harassment because of his sexual orientation. It was one of two lawsuits charging sex discrimination based on sexual orientation the agency filed In March 2016.
The agency had previously taken the position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers against sexual orientation discrimination, even though federal laws do not explicitly prohibit it.
The agency had also filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in Zarda v. Altitude Express, which is now being considered en banc by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, in a case that was filed by a skydiving instructor who charged he was fired because of his sexual orientation.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an opposing amicus brief disagreeing with the EEOC as to whether Title VII should be interpreted to include protection for sexual orientation.
The EEOC said in a Monday statement about the District Court’s Nov. 16 ruling that the award reflected $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages and $5,500 in back pay.
The court found the EEOC had proved Mr. Massaro should be awarded at least $125,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, but was required to reduce the damages award to $50,000 which is the maximum award allowed under Title VII against employers of Scott Medical’s size, according to the statement.
The court also issued a permanent injunction barring Scott Medical from engaging in any further sex harassment and requiring it to report to the EEOC for five years on any sex harassment complaints it receives.
Philadelphia-based EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said in the statement: “The pursuit of this case through trial and judgment demonstrates the unwavering commitment of this office to ensuring that LGBT workers are not subjected to harassment or other forms of unlawful discrimination. This case is one of many that point to the persistent and widespread problem of anti-LGBT bias in the American workplace.”
A Scott Medical Health Center spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday said it has filed its first two lawsuits charging sex discrimination based on sexual orientation.