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Religion, sexual orientation at issue in Library of Congress case

A former employee of the Library of Congress has filed compliant with the library's Equal Opportunity Complaints Office, alleging that he was harassed and fired after his supervisor discovered he is gay. The case is being pursued on the grounds that the harassment was religiously motivated. The man says that his supervisor confronted him several days prior to an annual review, saying that he would not succeed because being gay is against God's law.

If the harassment did in fact occur and was religiously motivated, then there is clear protection for the former employee under the Civil Rights Act. However, sexual orientation is not a federally protected class at this time, so the case may not be successful if the harassment and firing was found to be based solely on sexual orientation.

This is an interesting aspect of discrimination law. Even though there may have clearly been some discrimination present, it may not have been illegal if it was not based on one of the recognized categories. The law recognizes religion, gender, race, ethnicity, disability status, age, and national origin as an illegal basis for discrimination. However, this area of the law is still developing and there have been some successful cases in the past.

The former employee says that he had expected that his supervisor might not accept his sexual orientation, and so he declined to share that information for the first several years that he worked there. However, his supervisor's daughter added him as a friend on Facebook, and the former employee inadvertently shared information with her that indicated that he may be gay. After that, he said that his supervisor began to display hostility towards him. If the hostility was truly religiously motivated, then the former employee could have a successful claim and potentially expand the limits of discrimination law.

Source: ABC News, "Gay Federal Employee Says Facebook 'Like' Led to Discrimination, Harassment, and Firing," Susanna Kim, April 13, 2012.

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