A proposal in the North Dakota Legislature to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has failed three times: in 2009, 2013 and 2015.
The Republican majority has come up with a variety of reasons to oppose the bill, including that there’s supposedly no evidence of discrimination.
“We really did not see a problem, at least the problem was never defined to us in terms of either explicit discrimination or even implicit discrimination,” State Sen. David Hogue (R-Minot) said last year.
Hogue should take a few minutes to read the lawsuit filed in federal court yesterday on behalf of a Williston man who claims he was repeatedly harassed at work by his colleagues and boss for being gay.
The lawsuit goes into uncomfortable detail about the alleged frat-bro culture at Rocky Mountain Casing Crews, where Michael Allyn worked from January 2011 to April 2015.
The abuse Allyn suffered is a violation of the Civil Rights Act, according to the lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency. Here’s a sampling of the allegations:
- “Allyn’s male co-workers called him offensive and homophobic slurs; they defaced company vehicles with sex-based remarks about him; they painted a truck Allyn was known to use with pink polka dots, hearts and rainbows; and they left him pornographic magazines with titles like ‘Chicks With Dicks.”
- “One of Allyn’s male co-workers attempted to sexually assault him.”
- Allyn’s boss “directed offensive jokes about gays to or around Allyn, made Allyn the butt of derogatory sex-based comments, gave him children’s toys and board games, and gave him a hat with a Spanish slang word for homosexual on it.”
Allyn complained to coworkers and his boss, but the company “did not take prompt corrective action” and he finally left the job, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit seeks damages, compensation for emotional pain and suffering, as well as an order requiring the company to “ensure that its operations are free from the existence of a sexually hostile work environment.”
An attorney for the Rocky Mountain Casing Crews told the Fargo Forum he had not yet seen the lawsuit but that the company had previously denied the allegations.
State Rep. Joshua Boschee (D-Fargo) thinks the lawsuit could help bolster the case for anti-discrimination legislation. He tells us:
“In the last session alone, we had provided eight such examples that had occurred in the previous year and opponents of the legislation still had the gumption to say that discrimination based on sexual harassment doesn’t occur in North Dakota. Furthermore, had we passed nondiscrimination, the Williston case could have been resolved in state, but the majority of House members in the Republican Party refused to allow our state Department of Labor to hear these cases, pushing claims of nondiscrimination to the EEOC.”
You can read the full lawsuit here.