WILLISTON, N.D. -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed its first North Dakota lawsuit charging that an employer in the state subjected an employee to sexual harassment because of his sexual orientation.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday, Dec. 22, in North Dakota’s U.S. District Court.

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North Dakota outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, physical or mental disability or status with respect to marriage or public assistance. However, efforts to outlaw workplace and housing discrimination toward gays have failed in the last three Legislative sessions.

The last attempt to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation in North Dakota was a Senate bill defeated by the state House in early April 2015.

The EEOC contends in its complaint that Rocky Mountain Casing Crews, a drilling rig service company doing work in western North Dakota’s Oil Patch, subjected one of its drivers, Michael Allyn, to harassment because of his sexual orientation. Allyn is sexually attracted to men.

The agency said in its news release that co-workers called the employee by offensive slurs; defaced company vehicles with sex-based remarks about him; and left him pornographic magazines with upsetting material

The EEOC said the employee’s manager made offensive jokes about gays to or around the employee; made him the butt of derogatory sex-based comments; gave him children's toys and board games; and gave him a hat with a Spanish slang word for “homosexual” on it.

The court complaint added that one of Allyn’s male co-workers tried to sexually assault him.

The actions started about a year after Allyn began working at Rocky Mountain Casing Crews and continued until his employment ended there in April 2015, the complaint said.

Allyn complained about the behavior, the EEOC said, but no prompt corrective action was taken.

Rocky Mountain Casing Crews is registered as a Wyoming business but also registered in Williston and the state of North Dakota, and has continuously had at least 15 employees, the district court complaint said.

Kevin J. Chapman, an attorney for Rocky Mountain Casing Crews, said he has not seen the lawsuit but that his client has previously denied the allegations.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination because of sex. The EEOC has concluded harassment and other discrimination because of sexual orientation is a form of prohibited sex discrimination.

In this case, the EEOC contends that Rocky Mountain Casing harassed the employee because he did not conform to stereotypes regarding masculinity and because of the sex of the persons with whom he formed relationships.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit -- EEOC v. Rocky Mountain Casing Crews -- after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Employers must realize that harassing someone because of his or her perceived sexual orientation violates the law just as does other types of harassment based on sex, or harassment based on race, or harassment based on religion,” said Julianne Bowman, director for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which investigated the discrimination charge. “This kind of abuse is unacceptable and illegal.”

John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the Chicago District, said, “It is hard to believe in the 21st century that harassment of this level of severity exists. Unfortunately, it does, and it has to stop.”

The complaint said that employment practices outlined in the complaint were unlawful and intentional and that they were done with malice or reckless indifference to Allyn’s federally protected rights.

The EEOC is asking the court for an injunction against Rocky Mountain Casing Crews and all of its employees, agents, attorneys and other parties from engaging in sex-based harassment or from discriminating in employment based on sex.

The EEOC also requests an order for the firm to institute and carry out training, policies, practices and programs to provide equal employment opportunities based on sex and to ensure that its operations do not have a sexually hostile work environment.

The agency asks that Allyn be compensated for past and future losses, including emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation in amounts determined in a trial.

The complaint also asks that Rocky Mountain Casing Crews pay Allyn punitive damages “for malicious and reckless conduct” in amounts to be determined in a trial, plus any other relief the court “deems necessary and proper in the public interest,” as well as compensation to the EEOC for its expenses in the case.