According to a recent news article from Society for Human Resource Management, an employee in California has filed a lawsuit against his former employer claiming he was fired for being “too gay.” He was working in executive management for the company prior to being terminated, according to his complaint.
In his complaint, employee claimed his was openly gay when he was hired in 1997. He worked for the company for 10 years in various management jobs. In 2007, he was given a new job as the manager for diversity and inclusion. This was not only a new job for him, but a newly created position within the company.After three years of working at the position and receiving all positive reviews, he was promoted to a new position as the company’s manager of corporate social responsibility. After several months at this new job, court records indicated that he was frequently missing work and his superior had to counsel him about this. He was given an adjusted schedule with a focus on being in the office more. He was also accused of harassing several employers when he told one pregnant employee she was on the “mommy track” and told another employee who had a baby that her life was over. There were several other comments like this, according to court findings, and he was given a warning. He was also given a smaller bonus that year. After continued problems at work and problems with his supervisor, as noted by the court, he was terminated. In 2013, he filed this lawsuit.
At this point, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment asking that the case be dismissed. This was granted, and employee appealed. On appeal the court ultimately ruled that he was entitled to a jury trial.
The court looked at what was possibly a mixed motive for his termination. Under state and federal law, specifically the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employee cannot be fired because his or her gender or sexual orientation. There is also a California law that prevents firing an employee for discriminatory reasons, as our Los Angeles employment attorneys can explain
In some cases, there is only one reason or motive why and employer would want to fire an employee. If that reason is not in violation of state or federal anti-discrimination laws, then there will not be any problem for the employer in most cases, because we are an employment at will state. This means the employer can fire you for any non-discriminatory reason at any time and you can quit at any time for any reason.
In other cases, there is more than one possible motive for terminating an employee, and these cases are called mixed motive cases. If an employee is claiming there was a mixed motive, it is up to the employee to demonstrate that discrimination was a substantial factor in the decision to terminate the employee. On appeal, the court found that the company had a legitimate reason for terminating the employee, but there was evidence that he was indeed fired for being “too gay.” For this reason, it is up to the jury to determine if that reason was a substantial factor.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Worker Who Claimed He Was Fired for Being ‘Too Gay’ Entitled to Trial Under Calif. Law, July 6, 2017, By Joanne Deschenaux, J.D., SHRM
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Uber Investigating Sexual Harassment Claims by Engineer, March 25, 2017, Orange County Sexual Harassment Lawyer Blog