On November 16, 2017, Judge Cathy Bissoon in the Western District of Pennsylvania awarded $55,000 in damages to a gay employee who experienced discrimination and harassment based on his sexual orientation. See EEOC v. Scott Medical Health Center, 2:16-cv-00225 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 17, 2017). The case, which was brought by the EEOC, was one of the agency’s first two lawsuits alleging sexual orientation discrimination. (The other suit, EEOC v. Pallet Companies, d/b/a IFCO, 1:16-cv-00595 (D. Md.), settled in June 2016 for $202,000.) Scott Medical Health Center was also one of the first cases in which a federal judge expressly held that discrimination based on sexual orientation constitutes sex stereotyping and is thus prohibited by Title VII. We previously blogged about this case, and Judge Bissoon’s historic November 2016 ruling denying the employer’s motion to dismiss, here. The recent $55,000 damages award includes the maximum statutory damages, even though, according to Judge Bissoon’s Conclusions of Law, the punitive damages award alone could have been much higher.
Not only does the case represent an important win for the EEOC, it may also foreshadow anticipated rulings from the Second Circuit and, eventually, the Supreme Court, on the issue of whether Title VII protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation.