Sexual Orientation – Still Not Protected by Title VII
The Northern District of Illinois recently emphasized that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect individuals who claim they are harassed for their sexual orientation. In David Igasaki v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, et al., No. 15 C 3693, Igasaki alleged his immediate supervisor gave Igasaki, a lawyer for the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, a good performance review in 2011, but then began harassing him the following year after discovering that Igasaki is gay. According to Igasaki, his supervisor humiliated him, gave him an extremely heavy workload, set impossible deadlines and assigned him a small work station that did not accommodate his gout. Igasaki was fired last March.
Judge Andrea R. Wood dismissed the count in Igasaki’s lawsuit that maintained he was a victim of a violation of Title VII. In her opinion, Judge Wood wrote that sexual orientation “is not a protected class under Title VII.” Wood also acknowledged that Title VII protects victims of “sex stereotyping” or “gender stereotyping.” In the lawsuit, Igasaki alleged that he was criticized for being “too soft” and “not aggressive enough.” Judge Wood wrote that Igasaki contended that such criticism evidenced sex or gender stereotyping—i.e., discrimination for failing to conform to stereotypical male roles of authority—which amounted to sex discrimination. However, Igasaki alleged these comments began only after his supervisor learned of Igasaki’s sexual orientation. Presuming neither Igasaki’s gender nor his approach to his cases had materially changed over the 20 years he was employed by the department, Judge Woods found the comments did not evidence sex or gender stereotyping.