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Hawaii Among 18 States on Brief to Protect LGBTQ Workers From Employment Discrimination

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin joined an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by 18 attorneys general, arguing that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Click to read brief

The attorneys general argue that their states have strong interests in protecting their citizens against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The lack of nationwide recognition that Title VII bars such discrimination blocks the full protection of LGBTQ workers – particularly given divisions between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which takes the position that Title VII protects workers from sexual orientation) and the federal Department of Justice (which has taken the opposite position).

“Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable. This is why the State of Hawaii is one of 18 states standing up for the civil rights of workers in Hawaii and across America,” said Governor David Ige.

Attorney General Chin said, “It is unacceptable in the year 2017 that someone could face employment discrimination because of his or her sexual orientation. Period.”

The brief was filed earlier this week, on National Coming Out Day. In addition to Attorney General Chin, it was led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

“Employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers not only deprives them of important economic opportunities—it also stigmatizes their most intimate relationships and thus ‘diminish[es] their person-hood,’” the attorneys general write. “Title VII plays a crucial complementary role by covering individuals not subject to the State’s laws—for instance, federal employees or residents who work in another State—and by making available both the federal courts and a federal enforcer, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), to police invidious discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

The case, Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, involves Jameka Evans, a security guard at a Savannah hospital who was harassed at work and forced out of her job because she is a lesbian. Evans’ petition seeks a nationwide ruling that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates Title VII.

A copy of the brief is attached.

East Hawaii Veterinary Center Sued By Equal Employment Opportunity Council For Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

Co-Owner Responsible for Vulgar, Offensive Slurs to Female Staff, Federal Agency Charges

Press Release:

East Hawaii Veterinary Center, LLC, a veterinary clinic in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii, violated federal law by sexually harassing, firing and/or forcing out a class of female employees due to their gender, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.

Since 2005, at least six female employees, ranging from receptionists to a veterinarian, were subjected to extremely offensive, vulgar comments geared solely toward female staff by a co-owner of the clinic, according to the EEOC. On a near-daily basis, the co-owner insulted the women by calling them “worthless,” “whores” and other extremely vulgar epithets, and generally treated the women differently. The male staff was not subjected to such insults and hostile behavior.

Despite the company’s lack of an internal policy against discrimination, the EEOC asserts that one receptionist complained about the harassment to a different co-owner, who acknowledged that the behavior was inappropriate, yet took no action to stop it. Ultimately, the EEOC contends that the offending co-owner fired at least three of the victims and forced the others to quit.

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court, District of Hawaii (EEOC v. East Hawaii Veterinary Center, LLC, Case No. CV 10-00559-BAE-LEK). The suit was filed after the EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the class, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further discrimination at the East Hawaii Veterinary Center.

“Supervisors and top managers have a higher duty to ensure a workplace free of hostility,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which has jurisdiction over Hawaii. “Women have the right to work without the utter degradation displayed here, and the EEOC will fight to ensure that employers pay for such injustices.”

Timothy Riera, local director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office added, “It is important that owners and managers alike set the standard for a discrimination-free environment and ensure that employees are adequately trained to prevent, address and correct sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.”

Open since 2003, the East Hawaii Veterinary Center is a locally owned and operated clinic which provides medical and emergency services for small, avian and exotic animalson the Big Island of Hawaii, according to the company’s website.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov .