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Refer To Staff By Their Proper Names And Titles To Avoid Charges Of Unfair Treatment

A gay former assistant is suing actor Faye Dunaway for discrimination. The lawsuit comes less than a month after Dunaway was terminated from the Broadway show "Tea at Five," allegedly for "unprofessional behavior."  


The former assistant alleges Dunaway made "constant" comments about him being gay during the two months that he worked for her.


According to the complaint, in May 2019, the assistant texted the play's general counsel to report that Dunaway had called him and several other staff "little gay people" and a few weeks later, the plaintiff recorded Dunaway calling him "a little homosexual boy."


According to the allegations contained in the lawsuit, the general manager of the play terminated the assistant on June 12, 2019, because Dunaway was not comfortable with him. The plaintiff is suing for punitive damages for discrimination. Emilee Larkin "Faye Dunaway Sued by Ex-Assistant After Broadway Boot" (Aug. 15, 2019).


Commentary and Checklist

Title VII, a federal law that applies to employers with 15 or more employees, has been interpreted by several courts to prohibit sex-based workplace discrimination, including sexual orientation and gender preference. In addition, many states and localities expressly prohibit such discrimination for all size employers, including family employers. 


Referring to staff with unprofessional nicknames, even if they do not relate to gender issues, can create risk. Always treat staff with respect and use their proper names.


To help prevent all forms of sex discrimination, family employers should consider the following:

·      Never pay a staff member less or otherwise discriminate against a staff member in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based on sexual orientation or gender preference;

·      Train all staff and managers to never use derogatory terms or make disparaging remarks related to sexual orientation, including comments such as, “That’s gay” that are not directed at a specific person; and

·      Discipline any staff or managers who are found to have harassed or discriminated against applicants or staff based on sex, per your policies.

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