The 3d Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a gay man, who was the victim of gender stereo typing because of his effeminate behavior, stated a claim of gender discrimination under Title VI. Brian Prowell sued Wise Business Forms, Inc.
The 3d Circuit acknowledged that Title VII does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination. It does, however, proscribe gender stereo typing. In fact, the plaintiff in Price Waterhouse claimed and won a claim of gender stereo typing at the U.S. Supreme Court. The 3d Circuit explained the application of this rule to this case:
The record demonstrates that Prowel has adduced
evidence of harassment based on gender stereotypes. He
acknowledged that he has a high voice and walks in an
effeminate manner. In contrast with the typical male at Wise,
Prowel testified that he: did not curse and was very wellgroomed;
filed his nails instead of ripping them off with a utility
knife; crossed his legs and had a tendency to shake his foot “the
way a woman would sit.” Prowel also discussed things like art,
music, interior design, and decor, and pushed the buttons on his
nale encoder with “pizzazz.” Prowel’s effeminate traits did not
go unnoticed by his co-workers, who commented: “Did you see
what Rosebud was wearing?”; “Did you see Rosebud sitting
there with his legs crossed, filing his nails?”; and “Look at the
way he walks.” Finally, a co-worker deposited a feathered,
pink tiara at Prowel’s workstation. When the aforementioned
facts are considered in the light most favorable to Prowel, they
constitute sufficient evidence of gender stereotyping harassment
— namely, Prowel was harassed because he did not conform to
Wise’s vision of how a man should look, speak, and act —
rather than harassment based solely on his sexual orientation.
This case should open the door to more suits in federal court, including in this Circuit, by gay men or women, under Title VII. The plaintiff was represented by Katie Eyer of Salmanson Goldshaw in Pennsylvania. Way to go Katie! Nice work.