A former Illinois state employee who contends his homosexuality was a factor in his firing doesn’t have a case for sex discrimination, a federal judge held today.
In a written opinion, U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood did not rule on the merits of David K. Igasaki’s allegation that bias lay behind the loss of his job as a staff attorney for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
But Wood dismissed a count in Igasaki’s lawsuit maintaining he was a victim of a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when his supervisor harassed him after discovering he is gay.
Sexual orientation “is not a protected class under Title VII,” Wood wrote, citing Hamner v. St. Vincent Hospital & Health Care Center Inc., 224 F.3d 701 (7th Cir. 2000).
Wood dismissed the sex discrimination count without prejudice, which allows Igasaki to replead the claim.
Other discrimination counts are pending in Igasaki’s suit.
The lead attorney for Igasaki is Anne I. Shaw of Shaw Legal Services Ltd.
Another attorney for Igasaki, the firm’s Caryn I. Shaw, said her client likely will replead his sex discrimination claim.
The department and its chief of medical prosecutions, Laura E. Forester, are represented by Illinois Assistant Attorney General Adam G. Eisenstein.
“Our arguments and the court’s order were completely controlled by the existing case law from the 7th Circuit,” spokeswoman Annie Thompson of the attorney general’s office said in an e-mail.
Spokesman Terry Horstman of the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation declined to comment because the case is pending.
Igasaki had worked for the department for about 20 years and was an attorney in its medical prosecutions unit when he was fired last March. He was 62 years old.
He alleges Forester gave him a good performance review after becoming his immediate supervisor in 2011.
But Forester began harassing him the following year after discovering his sexual orientation, Igasaki contends.
Forester, he alleges, humiliated him, gave him an extremely heavy workload, set deadlines that were impossible to meet and assigned him a small workstation that did not accommodate his gout.
His work environment became more hostile after he filed discrimination charges with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Igasaki contends.
After he was fired, Igasaki filed a suit that included counts of race and sex discrimination under Title VII as well as counts under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Igasaki named both Forester and the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation as defendants.
In her opinion, Wood dismissed the counts against Forester.
A person cannot be held liable in his or her individual capacity for violating federal laws against sex, race, age or disability discrimination, Wood wrote.
Also, she wrote, Igasaki’s claims against Forester in her professional capacity and his claims against the department are “redundant.”
In dismissing the sex discrimination count against the department, Wood acknowledged Hamm v. Weyauwega Milk Products Inc., 332 F.3d 1058 (7th Cir. 2003), holds that Title VII protects victims of “sex stereotyping” or “gender stereotyping.”
And Igasaki alleges he was criticized for being “too soft” and “not aggressive enough,” Wood wrote.
Igasaki, she wrote, “contends that such criticism evidences sex or gender stereotyping — i.e., discrimination for failing to conform to stereotypical male roles of authority — which amounts to sex discrimination.”
However, Igasaki alleges these type of comments began only after Forester learned he is gay, Wood wrote.
“Presumably,” she wrote, “neither Igasaki’s gender nor his approach to his cases materially changed.”
The case is David Igasaki v. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, et al., No. 15 C 3693.