Sex discrimination | EEOC sues Alabama hotel over firing worker for being gay

EEOC sues Alabama hotel over firing worker for being gay

Harmony Hospitality LLC, which runs a Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel in Dothan, Alabama, has been sued for allegedly firing a male worker due to his sexual orientation.

The US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the worker on June 13, relating to events that took place in February 2022.

According to a news release, the ex-employee was fired due to his sexual orientation, gender identity, and for not adhering to “management’s preferred appearance for male employees,”

The EEOC accuses Harmony Hospitality of firing that worker just seven hours after learning he was gay and is suing the company for sex discrimination.

The employee, who worked as a night auditor at the hotel, reportedly styled himself “in conformity with male gender stereotypes” while working in his role, according to the filing.

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However, the agency claims that in February 2022, the worker arrived for a work meeting outside of his usual working hours in capri-cut joggers, pink nail polish, and box braids.

A co-owner of the hotel took issue with the worker’s appearance and asked his supervisor to demand he change his hairstyle, the EEOC alleges.

However, the supervisor reportedly refused to ask the worker to make any changes to his appearance, as she believed it could have been discriminatory.

In response, the EEOC claims the co-owner said the worker needed to “be ‘hidden’ working nights because of his appearance.”

According to the suit, the hotel’s other co-owner then learned the worker identifies as a non-binary man and is gay, before allegedly firing the employee over text.

The EEOC says Harmony Hospitality has violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

“Federal law guarantees all employees equal employment opportunity regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Marsha Rucker, EEOC’s regional attorney for the Birmingham District shared in a statement.

The EEOC has said it tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement with Harmony Hospitality but was unable to do so.

The filing comes during June 2024, which is Pride Month in the US. Many employers use the month as a valuable opportunity to run LGBTQ+ workplace events, training, and celebrations.

Many HR teams will use Pride Month as a springboard to launch year-round campaigns that will educate their employees on why LGBTQ+ representation and inclusion matter, and how all employees, managers, and leaders can be an ally to their colleagues and customers who are part of this community.

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