A Connecticut federal District Court ruled that a female ex-school teacher may proceed with her Title VII claim alleging sexual orientation discrimination. Boutillier v. Hartford Pub. Sch., (D.Conn., 3:13-cv-01303-WWE, 11/17/16). Plaintiff alleged that, because of her sexual orientation, she was subjected to an extended pattern of mistreatment by the school principal and vice principal. On one occasion, upon return from an approved medical leave, Plaintiff alleges that she was assigned a newly created position, requiring her to create new curriculum and travel around the school despite a doctor’s note stating that Plaintiff suffered from profound fatigue. Additionally, Plaintiff twice was taken to the hospital by ambulance after being admonished by the principal or assistant principal. Other examples involved the assistant principal calling Plaintiff at home demanding to know her medical status and what medications she was taking, and calling her home and insisting she appear for work when her car was not working.
Seeking dismissal, Defendant’s summary judgment motion argued sexual orientation is not a protected category under Title VII. The Court denied the motion, concluding that Plaintiff adequately established a right to protection under Title VII based on recent judicial interpretations and that multiple triable issues of fact existed. The Court relied in part on a Second Circuit case that held interracial association could be discrimination based on the employee’s own race. Thus, the Court concluded that sexual orientation discrimination is because of the employee’s sex. Further, the Court noted that sexual orientation cannot be extricated from the term “sex” under Title VII.
Employers should continue to treat sexual orientation as a protected characteristic and be sensitive to activity that could potentially give rise to a sexual orientation discrimination claim. Indeed, many states already have statutes that expressly prohibit sexual orientation discrimination.