Thursday, 01 February 2018 00:43

Lesbian firefighter won her harassment lawsuit

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Last Thursday, there was an important victory for both the LGBT community and for women.

Indeed, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal anti-discrimination law extends protections for same-sex workers who are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender.

A new victory against sexual harassment. Lori Franchina, a former firefighter in Providence, Rhode Island, has been harassed by many in her squad.

In 2011, she filed discrimination complaints with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 40 complaints. When she retires in 2013, she suffers from a severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

You can imagine Laurie's joy when the court announced the verdict.

“The abuse Lori Franchina suffered at the hands of the Providence Fire Department is nothing short of abhorrent,” Judge Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson wrote. “As this case demonstrates, employers should be cautioned that turning a blind eye to blatant discrimination does not generally fare well under anti-discrimination laws like Title VII.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin” but not discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

A new tactic has emerged. This verdict is a great victory for all LGBT people. And even though it is a case of harassment, it concerns cases of discrimination.

In Lori's case, the referred to her claim as a “sex-plus claim.”

“In short, ‘sex-plus claims’ are a flavor of gender discrimination claims where ‘an employer classifies employees on the basis of sex plus another characteristic,’” the ruling stated.

Here 'plus' is her sexual orientation.

“This ruling removes the argument that anti-gay harassment gets a free pass under federal law in the First Circuit,” says GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders Legal Director Gary Buseck in a statement. “As long as the harassment is “at least in part” because of the employee’s sex, then the claim can proceed as a sex discrimination case.”

“In this case, the First Circuit has opened the door for other LGBT workers who are called disparaging names or otherwise harassed on the job to bring federal sex discrimination claims,” wrote Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, wrote.

This is a major victory.

Unfortunately, all the American courts of appeals don't have the same opinion. They are very divided on Title VII. Some courts think that Title VII should encompass sexual orientation and gender identity when others oppose it.

In April 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of a lesbian employee dismissed because of her sexual orientation. But the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals didn't rule in favor of Jameka Evans, a lesbian security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital who was discriminated against based on her sexuality and gender-nonconformity.

So even though support for LGBT rights has decreased in 2017, here is another win for the LGBT community!