Mark Horton was working as the vice president of sales and marketing at Celtic Healthcare in Illinois when a recruiter hired by a Missouri firm, Midwest Geriatric Management thought he would be a good fit for an opening they had. Horton applied for the position and was well liked. He was offered the job. After accepting the position, the owners of MGM were enthusiastic about him taking the job. They expressed as much in a series of emails that went back and forth between Mr. Horton and one of the company’s owners, Faigie (Faye) Bienstock. In one of those emails, Mr. Horton happened to mention that his partner was a man. Five days later, MGM rescinded the offer.
Mark Horton found himself jobless. In the midst of accepting the position at MGM, Mark had made plans to move to St. Louis and ended his tenure with Celtic Healthcare. Mr. Horton is suing MGM for discriminatory hiring practices. His initial attempt to bring a lawsuit against MGM was dismissed by the court.
Why? Missouri is one of a handful of states that does not consider an individual’s sexual orientation as one of the named classes of people who are protected by anti-discrimination laws.
Discrimination and Protected Classes
According to MHRA (Missouri Human Rights Act), an employer may not discriminate against an individual based on their race, religion, nation of origin, gender, or because of a disability. There is no mention of sexual orientation on that list and individuals who have faced discrimination in the workplace due to their sexual orientation have been frustrated by the court’s refusal to hear their complaints.
Mr. Horton has appealed the verdict to 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals. The question then becomes, given that sexual orientation is not a specifically protected class, how can Mr. Horton convince the judges that his claim deserves to be heard?
The Arguments in Favor of Mark Horton
Mark Horton’s lawyers will attempt to make the argument that already existing statutes within the Civil Rights Act and Missouri’s MHRA by default prohibit discrimination against individuals who are not heterosexual.
The first argument that his lawyers will make is that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a form of sex or gender discrimination. Since sex discrimination is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and by MHRA, Missouri’s equivalent, it should be prohibited for employers to discriminate on that basis.
Secondly, discriminating against an individual based on who they are married to is analogous to blackballing an individual involved in an interracial marriage. It would be illegal to discriminate against an individual who was married to someone else who was not the same race as themselves.
Lastly, the question of sexual stereotypes is a matter of sex discrimination. Mr. Horton does not fit a certain stereotype of a man who is married to a woman. Since this is the basis for rescinding the job offer, Mr. Horton, and anyone else who is involved in a non-heterosexual relationship, should be covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well.
While the appeal has yet to be heard, the EEOC has already come to the defense of Mr. Horton in this case. Hopefully, Mr. Horton’s case will be heard before a jury.
Have You Been the Victim of Workplace Discrimination?
If so, HKM Employment Attorneys of Kansas City has fought for numerous Missouri workers fighting unfair hiring practices. Give us a call at 816.607.4691 and we will begin discussing your case immediately.