Hoping to set an example for all employees who have been discriminated against in the workplace because of their sexual orientation, one California man is now pursuing a wrongful termination lawsuit against a school district that fired him because he is gay.
The lawsuit was filed last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court, nearly a year after the man had been fired from his position as an assistant coach for a local school’s boys’ water polo and swim team. The man said that at first he was just going to give up and not fight for his position as an assistant coach at the school when he was fired. But, after receiving support from family members and others in the community, the man decided that he must make sure that his rights as an employee in California — and the rights of other gay and lesbian employees — remain protected in the workplace.
As we mentioned last week on our Los Angeles and Long Beach employment law blog, it is illegal in California to discriminate against employees or fire workers because of their sexual orientation. Prior to being fired from the school, the former coach said that he had never been disciplined by the school district for his performance. However, after the school district received photos of the man that had been taken and posted online several years ago, the school fired him. The photos had been sent to the school district anonymously.
According to the lawsuit, the pictures had been posted online several years ago on Facebook and MySpace, prior to the man’s employment with the school district. In one picture, several men in drag were lifting up the man. He was fully clothed in the photo. In another picture, the man was shown getting ready to eat a corn dog. The school district claimed that the photos were “obscene” and the coach was fired.
According to the lawsuit, the man had forgotten about the pictures online and was never asked to take the photos down before being terminated. The man’s lawyer has also pointed out that the school does not have a formal policy regarding workers’ private postings on social media sites including photos.
When employee rights are violated in the workplace, it is important that employees consider working with an attorney in order to make sure that employers do not continue to promote hostile work environments. When it is discovered that one’s rights have been violated in the workplace, a terminated employee may be able to get his or her job back. In some cases, an employee may even be entitled to damages resulting from workplace discrimination or wrongful termination.
Source: ABC News, “School Fires Water Polo Coach Over ‘Obscene’ Photos; He Files Lawsuit,” Susan Donaldson James, June 5, 2012