The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court decision and revived a lawsuit from a gay health care sales specialist who alleged that his job offer was withdrawn after his would-be employer discovered he was gay.
Mark Horton, a Missouri resident and former vice president for sales and marketing at Celtic Healthcare, was actively sought out and recruited by an executive search firm hired by Midwest Geriatric Management, a competing company, to fill a similar position.
At the recruiter’s advice, Horton applied for the job, and, following an extensive screening and interview process, received a written job offer from the company’s owners, Judah and Faigie (Faye) Bienstock, in April 2016.
After he accepted the job, Horton received an enthusiastic reply from Faye Bienstock welcoming him to MGM. He informed Celtic Healthcare of his intention to leave, but as he was undergoing a background check for his new job, he wrote an email to Bienstock, in which he mentioned his partner. Five days after sending that email, he received a reply from Bienstock that MGM was withdrawing its offer of employment.
Horton subsequently sued, alleging that he was the victim of sex-based discrimination, on the grounds that he was treated less favorably “because of his association with a person of a particular sex” — his husband — and because of his “nonconformity with sex stereotypes and MGM’s preconceived definition of how males should behave.” But the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri dismissed the lawsuit.
Horton’s legal team subsequently appealed the dismissal, arguing before the 8th Circuit on April 17, 2019, that the lower court should have allowed them to pursue the lawsuit. But a day later, the Supreme Court agreed to take up a series of LGBTQ workplace discrimination cases, and Horton’s appeal was placed on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision.
Last month, the high court determined that employment discrimination against LGBTQ individuals violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
As a result of the court’s decision, any LGBTQ rights cases that have since been dismissed or were being appealed will now be able to point to the court’s decision as precedent-setting, and have their complaints revived.
That means that, with the 8th Circuit’s decision, Horton’s case will now go back to the lower court to be decided on its merits.
“When the Supreme Court settled at long last the issue of whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination because of sex, it was only a matter of time before the Eighth Circuit would apply that new precedent to Mark’s case,” Greg Nevins, senior counsel and Employment Project Director at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.
“Mark was clearly qualified, and in fact it was all systems go until management at MGM learned that Mark is gay. As the Supreme Court made clear: when you harass or fire employees or reject applicants because they are LGBTQ, you violate federal law,” Nevins added.
“The Eighth Circuit sees what happened to me as the same as was happened to Mr. Bostock and the other brave plaintiffs who took our battle all the way to the Supreme Court,” Horton said in a statement.
“Midwest Geriatric Management basically ended my career. I left my previous job to accept what appeared to be a great offer at MGM, a position that I had been recruited for.
“When MGM rescinded the offer, suddenly I was jobless. Being able to be open and bring my whole self to my work has been an asset, and I have the track record to prove it.”
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