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Prowel v. Wise Business Forms, Inc.

579 F.3d 285 (2009)

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Prowel v. Wise Business Forms, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

579 F.3d 285 (2009)

Facts

Brian Prowel (plaintiff) worked at Wise Business Forms, Inc. (Wise) (defendant) from 1991 until 2004. Prowel was effeminate in his appearance, dress, grooming, and mannerisms, in contrast to the other male employees who worked at Wise’s plant. Some of Prowel’s coworkers teased Prowel about his appearance and called him Princess or Rosebud. In addition, a coworker left a feathered pink tiara on Prowel’s workstation. Prowel was also homosexual; he was outed at work by one of his coworkers and subjected to coworkers’ use of disparaging slurs about his sexuality. Coworkers discussed their disapproval of Prowel’s lifestyle, their hatred of Prowel, and their desire for gay people to be shot, and someone left messages on the wall of the men’s bathroom claiming that Prowel had AIDS and was having sex with male coworkers. Prowel’s work environment allegedly became so stressful that Prowel vomited on the way to work. Wise terminated Prowel in December of 2004 for lack of work. Prowel subsequently sued Wise in federal district court, alleging claims including gender-stereotyping discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). The district court granted summary judgment for Wise and dismissed Prowel’s claim after concluding that Prowel was actually alleging a claim for sexual-orientation discrimination, which was not a cognizable claim under Title VII. Prowel appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hardiman, J.)

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