An Employee’s Own Experience Does Not Establish a Pattern of Discrimination


This seemingly obviously point was decisive on an employee’s reverse sexual orientation claim, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

In Ames v. Ohio Dept. of Youth Services, an employee sued, alleging that the denial of a promotion and a demotion were based on her sexual orientation. Because she is heterosexual, she had to establish “background circumstances to support the suspicion that the defendant is that unusual employer who discriminates against the majority.” This showing can be made with evidence that the relevant minority group made the employment decision (which was not the case here) or that there is statistical evidence showing a pattern of discrimination against members of the majority group. However, as the Sixth Circuit noted, “a plaintiff cannot point to her own experience to establish a pattern of discrimination.” And here, the employee’s “pattern” was based only on events specific to her – the employer’s denying her a promotion and demoting her.

This decision is helpful in reiterating that a pattern of discrimination must extend beyond the single employee. There is no pattern unless multiple employees have had similar discriminatory experiences.