In Churchill v. Prince George’s Cty. Pub. Sch., No. PWG-17-980, 2017 BL 430226 (D. Md. Dec. 01, 2017), the plaintiff brought claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation under Title VII and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (“MFEPA”).
Title VII proscribes discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, while the MFEPA prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The defendant argued that it is well established in the Fourth Circuit that claims for a hostile work environment or termination on the basis of sexual orientation are not proscribed under Title VII.
The plaintiff countered that the precedent the defendant cited was merely dicta and that the District Court was not bound by it. She advocated that the Court instead should adopt the position of courts outside the Fourth Circuit in finding that sexual orientation discrimination is incorporated within sex discrimination.
The Court noted that the plaintiff was correct that the Fourth Circuit addressed this question only in dicta. However, the Court explained, in that decision the Fourth Circuit unequivocally stated that “Title VII does not afford a cause of action for discrimination based upon sexual orientation.” Wrightson v. Pizza Hut of Am., Inc., 99 F.3d 138 (4th Cir. 1996). Additionally, the Fourth Circuit (albeit in an unpublished opinion) more recently cited Wrightson for this proposition, Murray v. N.C. Dep’t of Pub. Safety, 611 F. App’x 166 , 166 (4th Cir. 2015), and this Court has followed that precedent in finding that Title VII does not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Parrish v. Tile Shop, LLC, No. JKB-16-1177, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 135999 , [2016 BL 326622], 2016 WL 8669919 , at *5 (Sept. 30, 2016) (citing Murray, 611 F. App’x at 166 ); see also Sloan, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70078 , [2006 BL 117312], 2006 WL 2709627 , at *7 (citing Wrightson, 99 F.3d at 143 ).
In light of this precedent, the Court dismissed plaintiff’s claims for sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII.