Gay Employee Could Proceed With Retaliation But Not Harassment Claim Under Title VII

Dawson v. Entek Int’l, 630 F.3d 928 (9th Cir. 2011)

Shane Dawson, a former temporary production line worker for Entek, ran a production line that rolled up battery separators. Dawson, who is gay, worked with 24 other male employees. Dawson’s employment was terminated two days after he had complained to human resources that he was being called “a homo and a fag and a queer” by other employees at Entek. Although the district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, concluding that the “gravity of Dawson’s complaints coupled with the time frame are such that a reasonable trier of fact could find in favor of Dawson on his retaliation claim.” Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the Title VII retaliation claim. However, the Court affirmed dismissal of the Title VII hostile work environment claim on the ground that Dawson was not verbally harassed for appearing non-masculine or for otherwise not fitting the male stereotype. See also Green v. Laibco, LLC, 192 Cal. App. 4th 441 (2011) (employer that failed to produce meaningful evidence of its financial condition at trial is not entitled to reversal of $1.2 million punitive damages award against it in wrongful termination case).