Gay Teacher Sues Over Firing From Catholic High School

A teacher who is gay has filed an employment lawsuit against his former employer, a Roman Catholic high school, which he alleges terminated his employment because he announced his wedding to another man.professional

The LGBT employment discrimination lawsuit alleges the Charlotte Catholic High School in North Carolina ran afoul of federal employment law in firing him from his substitute teaching position three years ago, following his revelation of his wedding to another man in a Facebook post. The statute doesn’t reference any state law, but it does come amid a bigger fight over a law in that state that limits protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

According to the Associated Press, plaintiff taught full-time English and drama at the school for more than 10 years and even earned the “Teacher of the Year” title back in 2012. Afterward, he transitioned into a less demanding role as a regular substitute teacher, and usually worked more than 12 weeks in a year. Then, in the fall of 2014, he posted details of his upcoming wedding to another man. Several weeks later, seemingly without warning, he was informed by the school’s assistant principal that he was no longer welcome back to continue teaching. 

Soon thereafter, a spokesman for the local diocese declared publicly that plaintiff was fired from his job for not just being in a same-sex relationship, but for announcing it on social media, which in effect was a very public way of indicating he does not agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Officials with the diocese would not respond to questions regarding active litigation.

Plaintiff, who is seeking back pay, benefits compensatory damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.

In his lawsuit, plaintiff noted he’d been living with his long-time life partner since 2002. His partner reportedly regularly attended school functions with plaintiff, and their romantic relationship was common knowledge among students, parents staff and administrators. Still, when he announced his intention to marry his partner, this set off higher-ups with the school.

Plaintiff notes that while he is aware of the church’s opposition to same-sex unions, he forcefully argues that his commitment to his life partner has no bearing on his work in the classroom. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed the complaint on his behalf, saying that while religious organizations do have the right to extend preference in employment to members of the faith, it can’t otherwise discriminate against those who are in a protected class, which would include LGBT workers.

Title VII does not expressly assert protections for LGBT individuals, but the EEOC’s position has long been that the definition of “sex” in the law extends to LGBT workers. Numerous federal court rulings have supported the assertion that sexual orientation is covered under this provision. Still, there is some question as to whether those rulings definitively resolve the issue, as the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on the matter.

Here in California, our LGBT employment attorneys know there are state laws that specifically extend protections to workers on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Gay Teacher Sues Over Firing From North Carolina High School, Jan. 11, 2017, By Jonathan Drew, Associated Press

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Black Employees are Suing CNN for Racial Discrimination, Jan. 13, 2017, LGBT Discrimination Lawyer Blog