Norristown man seeks pro-LGBT appellate ruling

Norristown man seeks pro-LGBT appellate ruling

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A Norristown gay man hopes his lawsuit against a Whitemarsh nursing home will result in federal antibias protections for LGBT workers in the region.

“Frank Doe,” a former activities director at Meadowview Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, hopes to persuade the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that anti-LGBT workplace bias always is a form of sex discrimination. But first, Doe needs permission from a federal judge to present his arguments for such a pro-LGBT ruling in the Third Circuit.

The circuit’s jurisdiction covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands. For more than 40 years, the circuit has held that anti-LGBT bias isn’t a form of sex discrimination banned by Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Other jurisdictions across the country have taken a different stance, ruling that anti-LGBT workplace bias inherently is a form of sex discrimination and banned by Title 7. In those jurisdictions, LGBT plaintiffs are allowed to pursue their workplace antibias claims with the full force and effect of Title 7 on their side.

Doe is embroiled in contentious litigation with Meadowview, where he worked for about 16 months before being fired in September 2016.

Doe filed a federal lawsuit in May, alleging anti-LGBT workplace bias at Meadowview and seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

But on Aug. 7, U.S. District Judge Thomas N. O’Neill Jr. ruled that Title 7 doesn’t provide Doe with specific anti-LGBT-bias protections, thus severely hampering his case.

On Aug. 28, Doe asked O’Neill for permission to take an immediate appeal with the Third Circuit and to argue that anti-LGBT workplace bias always is a form of sex discrimination.

If Doe can obtain a favorable ruling from the appeals court, he’ll have have a stronger case against Meadowview as his antibias case moves forward.

“Judge O’Neill’s ruling, if left undisturbed, essentially would eviscerate our sexual-orientation-discrimination case,” explained Doe’s attorney, Justin F. Robinette.

O’Neill permitted Doe to pursue some secondary claims against Meadowview.

“But the heart of our case involves anti-LGBT bias my client experienced at Meadowview,” Robinette said. “There’s no reason my client shouldn’t have the full and equal protection of the law. To render him a second-class citizen simply because of his LGBT status is completely unacceptable.”

Robinette added: “We really need this issue resolved by the Third Circuit as soon as possible, so we can move forward with the litigation.”

Doe also seeks a Third Circuit ruling that anti-LGBT workplace bias is banned by Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act because the act bans sex discrimination.

As of presstime, O’Neill hadn’t ruled on Doe’s requests.

“We hope the Meadowview case ultimately will send a clear message that all antigay workplace bias and harassment is illegal,” Robinette continued.

He added that a favorable ruling from O’Neill — and subsequent favorable rulings from the Third Circuit — “are a matter of great importance to the LGBT community.”

“It’s a matter of fundamental justice for everyone, regardless of LGBT status,” Robinette said. “I’m astonished we’re even having this conversation in 2017. We fervently hope Judge O’Neill will grant our request and allow the Third Circuit to consider giving LGBT people full civil rights in the workplace.”

Attorneys for Meadowview declined to comment for this story. 

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