Several former employees of BrewDog in Indianapolis have claimed on social media that they were fired because of their gender and sexual orientation. The group of four women say that a new general manager at the Fountain Square brewery called each of them in to tell them they were fired due to management’s desire for a change in culture.
Although BrewDog CEO Jason Brock has not responded, the establishment shared a statement denying gender or sexual discrimination as factors, stating that the dismissals were performance-based. Among the employees fired in January were the brewery’s executive chef and general manager. Their positions were filled by men.
One former employee suggested that the issue was not simply sexism, but LGBTQ discrimination, as two of the four were transgender, and all four were LGBT.
The clash of federal protections and state law
Protections against sexual harassment in Indiana are outlined in both state and federal laws. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on many categories including race, color or sex, and applies to all federal or federally funded agencies as well as employers with 15 or more employees.
Indiana law also prohibits sexual discrimination in employment, including sexual harassment, and applies to public employees and private employers with six or more employees. Both state and federal laws provide protections against wrongful termination due to sex.
However, current federal and state treatment of discrimination or wrongful termination due to sexual orientation have diverged substantially. Current Indiana law does not protect LGBTQ individuals against sex discrimination.
In June 2020, the Supreme Court landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County interpreted protections on the basis of gender to include sexual orientation and gender identity. President Biden recently issued an executive order directing federal agencies to apply this ruling to employment discrimination, as well as education, housing and health care.
Although Biden’s action is a huge step forward in recognizing the need for treating the LGBTQ community as a protected class, the winds of progress can change under a future administration. The Equality Act would codify Bostock and expand Title VII protections to include the LGBTQ community as a protected class. In Indiana, this would provide protections to 229,000 LGBTQ adults and 2,646,634 women.
For Indiana residents who have been affected by workplace discrimination or wrongful termination, it is essential to have skilled and experienced employment law advocates who will advocate for your rights under current law.