U.S. District Judges Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. (S.D. Ohio) and Lawrence F. Stengel (E.D. Pa.) ruled on consecutive days in March, refusing to dismiss sexual orientation discrimination claims filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination against an individual because of their sex. In the Pennsylvania case, Ellingsworth, a non-gay employee claims to have suffered discrimination because she was wrongly perceived to be a lesbian. In the Ohio case, Spellman, a lesbian claimed to have suffered severe and pervasive harassment from a homophobic supervisor.
The plaintiff’s allegations in Spellman v. Ohio Department of Transportation, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41636, 2017 WL 1093281 (S.D. Ohio, March 22, 2017), sound an all-too-common theme. Lori Spellman started working as a Highway Technician for ODOT in November 1009, and claims that she “suffered gender-based and sexual harassment at the hands of her supervisor Robert Mock, her coworker Jenny Sowers, and her manager Ray Dailey, among others at ODOT.” She also claimed that she was subjected to a “campaign of retaliation” after she reported this harassment to management. Eventually, all three of these employees “faced disciplinary action, transfer, or termination for their conduct.” Judge Sargus’s opinion goes on for several hundred words detailing Spellman’s factual allegations, including the responses of the employer when she finally submitted formal complaints.