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Lesbian Settles With Employer After Years of Discrimination

Lesbian Settles With Employer After Years of Discrimination

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An Ohio state government worker who was discriminated against because of her sexual orientation has settled out of court after a federal judge said gay and lesbian government workers are protected by the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.

Shari Hutchinson was a support officer in the Child Support Enforcement Agency for Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Despite high scores on standardized tests, her Executive MBA, and two decades of work experience in the private sector, Hutchinson was repeatedly passed over for promotions after coworkers found out that she is a lesbian.

Hutchinson was held back from advancement because her supervisors failed to give her an annual review for five consecutive years. Once she learned that straight coworkers were being promoted to more than a dozen positions for which she qualified, and that office mates were spreading rumors that she wrote for a lesbian pornography magazine, she filed the lawsuit, according to Freedom to Work.

While her employer argued that Hutchinson's claims were invalid because sexual orientation is not a protected class, the judge rejected that argument in pre-trial hearings. The day before the case was to officially go to trial -- within the last week -- the agency made a six-figure settlement with Hutchinson.

Currently, Ohio does not designate sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination law, just as the federal government does not. Hutchinson will now be working with Freedom to Work to lobby the federal government to institute the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

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