Thursday, April 28, 2022

Series of promotions dooms gay brewery employee’s sex discrimination claim

Midland Brewing Company hired Ryan Boshaw to work as a server. Over the span of nine months, it promoted him three times, to an hourly managerial position, to floor leader, and ultimately to front-of-house operations manager (the second highest ranking position in the business). 

Shortly after Boshaw's final promotion, however, Midland terminated him following a series of performance-related issues and concerns. The brewery had issue with how he handled an issue with customers who found hair in their food. He deviated from his job assignments and interfered with how others performed their jobs. He brough the wrong resume to an interview of a prospective employee. The final straw for the brewery was Boshaw missing a mandatory meeting after texting a co-worker that the meetings were "such a waste of time," and then being no-call/no-show for his shift that evening. The brewery fired him the next day because of his "absence and failure to notify management" in addition to "other issues."

Where's the claim that supports Boshaw's federal lawsuit? 

Did I forget to mention that he's gay? And that the brewery's owner told him that before he could be moved into a leadership role that "needed to change [his] appearance and kind of just act a little more masculine" (which included styling his hair differently and removing visible body piercings)? And that his supervisor instructed him to remove his Facebook relationship status, which indicated that he was dating a man, and told him that if he "wanted a promotion, [his partner] would understand"?

Well, those happened, too. But none of it mattered to the 6th Circuit, which affirmed the dismissal of Boshaw's sex discrimination claim.
Boshaw claims that Reynolds conditioned his promotion to front-of-house operations manager on "his agreement not to publicly disclose" his sexual orientation and to act more masculine. But Boshaw offers no evidence that this promotion, which was his third, was delayed by such a condition. True, Boshaw removed his Facebook relationship status before his first promotion. Yet during the same period, Boshaw posted pictures of himself, his children, and his partner on his public Instagram page with hashtags such as "#gayselfie" and "#gayswithkids", suggesting that Reynolds's condition had no impact on the promotion decision.… Boshaw was promoted despite his open and obvious noncompliance with the supposed condition on his social media postings.… 
In all, Boshaw secured three promotions in eight months, rising from an entry-level server to front-of-house operations manager. All things considered, Boshaw's rapid rise shows that Midland did not delay or deny his promotions because of sex discrimination.

Every incident of bad behavior doesn't equal a legal wrong. Yet, just because you get away with something doesn't make it right or justify the behavior. We don't tell gay employees to hide their sexual orientation or act less gay, just like we don't tell our Black employees to hide their Blackness or act less Black.

Do better, employers. We're watching.