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Federal Court: Gay Butler Can Sue

September 25, 2002

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LAS VEGAS (AP) _ In a 7-4 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has ruled that a gay butler who worked in the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas can sue his employer in federal court for sexual discrimination.

Medina Rene claimed in a federal lawsuit that from 1994 to 1996 his all-male co-workers and supervisor subjected him to a hostile work environment that included crude and demeaning pranks targeting his homosexuality.

The federal appeals court ruling Tuesday reversed an earlier decision by the same panel that examined whether federal civil rights laws protect homosexual workers who are physically harassed on the job.

The March 2001 decision by three judges in the same court had upheld a 1979 decision that the law protects workers against discrimination only on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or national origin.

But the seven-judge majority cited an unanimous 1998 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that sexual harassment at work can be illegal even when the offender and victim are the same sex.

The Supreme Court has never decided whether a worker discriminated against because of sexual orientation can sue under federal civil rights laws even though it has held that it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on gender.

Twelve states, including Nevada, allow such suits under their own anti-discrimination rules. They are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.

Rene did not sue in state court and the statute of limitations now has expired.

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