A gym teacher has sued Trinity School in Manhattan alleging that the school violated anti-discrimination laws by firing him because he is a straight married man with children, and that his lesbian boss gave preferential treatment to younger, single females without children.
Gregory Kenney claims his family life was negatively impacted after athletic director Pat Krieger required that he coach three sports teams as opposed to the two teams his contract required. He alleges that the school ignored his complaints to Krieger and that he was reported to the headmaster when he refused to continue working nights and weekends. At the same time, the school took no action against a single, female teacher who refused to take on additional coaching responsibilities. Kenny's suit also points out that the school replaced him with a gay, female teacher and that the school also fired three other married coaches with young children. In response, Krieger asserts Kenney was fired because he illegally sublet a university apartment and failed to properly supervise his students.
While not as common as claims of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender discrimination, Kenney's claims are valid under the law of New York, which is one of 20 states that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Federal law differs in that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects people from workplace discrimination based on sex, but does not specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual preference or gender identity. Recent judicial opinions, however, have begun to blur the fine line differentiating discrimination on the basis of gender stereotyping and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to expand what constitutes discrimination "based on sex." As a result, courts are allowing more gay, lesbian and bisexual employees to pursue claims of sex discrimination based on "gender stereotyping" under Title VII. Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considers adverse employment actions taken because of a person's non-conformance with sexual stereotypes a violation of Title VII.
The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would specifically protect against workplace discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Employers should not wait for such legislation to take measures to prevent and address claims of discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation. While policies addressing gender-based discrimination and harassment help raise awareness, the ability of employees to recognize, avoid and respond to improper conduct in the workplace is crucial to minimizing discrimination and harassment.