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PRESS RELEASE
12-22-16

North Dakota Employer Harassed Worker Because of His Sexual Orientation, EEOC Charges

Male Employee Was Subjected to a Hostile Work Environment Because of His Sexual Orientation, Federal Agency Charges

MINNEAPOLIS -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has filed its first North Dakota case charging that an employer subjected a male employee to sexual harassment because of his sexual orientation.

In its suit, EEOC contends that Rocky Mountain Casing Company, which maintains a workforce in Williston, N.D., subjected a male employee to harassment because of his sex, male, and his sexual orientation. The agency said that coworkers called the employee by offensive and homophobic slurs; defaced company vehicles with sex-based remarks about him; and left him pornographic magazines with titles like "Chicks With Dicks." His manager made offensive jokes about gays to or around the employee; made him the butt of derogatory sex-based comments; gave him children's toys and board games; and gave him a hat with a Spanish slang word for "homosexual" on it. The employee complained, EEOC said, but no prompt corrective action was taken.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination because of sex. As the federal law enforcement agency charged with interpreting and enforcing Title VII, EEOC has concluded that harassment and other discrimination because of sexual orientation is a form of prohibited sex discrimination. In this case, EEOC contends that Rocky Mountain Casing Company harassed the employee because he did not conform to stereotypes regarding masculinity and because of the sex of the persons with whom he formed relationships. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Rocky Mountain Casing Co., 1:16-cv-00428-DLH-CSM) in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota after first attempting to reach pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"Employers must realize that harassing someone because of his or her perceived sexual orientation violates the law just as does other types of harassment based on sex, or harassment based on race, or harassment based on religion," said Julianne Bowman, director for EEOC's Chicago District Office, which investigated the discrimination charge. "This kind of abuse is unacceptable and illegal."

John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the Chicago District, said, "It is hard to believe in the 21st century that harassment of this level of severity exists. Unfortunately, it does, and it has to stop."

Addressing emerging and developing issues, especially coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans­gender people under Title VII's sex discrimination provisions, is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). The agency has posted materials on its website relating to coverage under Title VII for LGBT individuals. In addition, in June 2015, the Commission, in coordination with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Office of Special Counsel, and Merit Systems Protection Board, developed a guide for federal agencies on addressing sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in federal civilian employment.

EEOC's Minneapolis Area Office is part of the Chicago District, which is responsible for handling charges of employment discrimin­ation, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employ­ment dis­crimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.