The Ohio Civil Rights Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination does not include sexual orientation harassment. That’s what the Ohio Court of Appeals for the Seventh District recently held in Inskeep v. Western Reserve Transit Authority.
In Inskeep, plaintiff Matthew Inskeep sued his employer, defendant Western Reserve Transit Authority, for sexual orientation harassment. WRTA argued that Inskeep’s complaint should be dismissed because sexual orientation harassment is not recognized under Ohio law. The Seventh Circuit agreed, holding that sexual orientation discrimination is not covered by The Ohio Civil Rights Act.
Under The Ohio Civil Rights Act, “It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice: (A) For any employer, because of the race, color, religion, sex, military status, national origin, disability, age, or ancestry of any person, to discharge without just cause, to refuse to hire, or otherwise to discriminate against that person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, or any matter directly or indirectly related to employment.”
In his appeal to the Seventh District, Inskeep argued that discrimination based on sexual orientation is discrimination “because of sex.” The Seventh District disagreed. It reasoned that while several States have made sexual orientation a protected class under their anti-discrimination statutes, Ohio is not one of them. Additionally, the court stated that the Supreme Court of Ohio has not yet addressed the issue of whether The Ohio Civil Right Act’s use of the word “sex” includes sexual orientation. As such, the Seventh District held that Inskeep’s sexual orientation harassment claim was not actionable.
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