I started working at my previous employer during my last semester of college and was hired full-time upon my graduation in the spring of 1988. I later pursued an MBA and graduated in 1994 with a Master’s degree in International Management. It was ideal; going to school in the evenings and implementing what I had just learned the night before in my day job.
Over time, my responsibilities grew. I was involved in multiple facets of the international side of the business. In this capacity, I traveled around the world extensively to expand and support the company’s international initiatives and growth. But it all came to a sudden halt a month short of my 25th anniversary after I complained about a discriminatory and hostile work environment.
This discrimination took many forms and involved both subtle and more blatant actions. I endured it over a period of time but particularly during the last two years of my employment when I was reassigned to work for a new supervisor. During this time, I was being hunted, bullied, assaulted and harassed. I allege it involved humiliation; exclusion from participating in day-to-day meetings, decision making process or attending important events where I once took an active role; segregation along ethnic lines during a department event as well as enduring insensitive comments and racially & homophobic charged insults such as being called “spic,” “girl,” “emotional,” and a “bitch.” I was made to feel isolated and alienated from colleagues, who naturally feared a negative repercussion for associating with me. My lawsuit alleges the above discrimination and hostile work environment due to my sexual orientation and national origin.
Discrimination is very damaging to one’s self worth, but it is particularly detrimental when it is perpetuated by an employer. My lawsuit alleges that my immediate supervisor was keen on undermining my reputation, contribution and career as well as marginalizing and diminishing my role to others in an effort to force me out. Because I feared being considered irrelevant, I decided to address it face-to-face with my supervisor with the hope of resolving any possible misunderstandings — to no avail. Afterwards, I contacted other managers for support and guidance, but they were dismissive as well, even though reaching out to upper management was a course of action outlined in the company’s own Policies & Procedures Manual to resolve issues between a superior and a subordinate. As a last resort, I communicated with the Director of Human Resources, and in each instance I was rebuffed. HR end up siding with my supervisor and dismissed all my claims as “invalid.” Shortly thereafter, I was simply told my position had been eliminated and, a few weeks before celebrating my 25th employment anniversary, I was let go.
Fortunately for me, I had the support of my family but especially my partner of 25 years who gave me the strength and courage to fight back. No one can accept humiliation or bullying; especially when it is coming from your own colleagues, teammates or supervisors.
But not everyone has that support network to give them the strength to fight back, and even if they do, many places in Florida lack protections against workplace discrimination for LGBT people. A person like me can work 25 years for a company and be fired simply because their supervisor doesn’t like gay people.
Bullies and bigots come in all forms and some hold impressive titles, and they are fueled by the fear and uneasiness they cast upon their prey. Had I yielded to this treatment and refused to stand-up for myself by not formally exposing and denouncing them, I would have allowed them to diminish me as a human being. We can only stop the bullies when we stand up and expose them to the world.
2½ years later, my battle is still being fought in the legal system and the outcome is still pending. But, because of my strong convictions, I will prevail. It is only by confronting the bullies and denouncing their illegal actions that everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or orientation, will be treated with respect in the work place and judged by our contributions and abilities, not by who we love.