Lawsuit Against New Jersey Furniture Store Alleges Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Exit_15X_sign_Secaucus.jpgA former employee of a Secaucus, New Jersey furniture store chain has alleging that management discriminated against her based on her sexual orientation and retaliated against her for complaining of a manager’s discriminatory conduct. Perez v. Factory Direct of Secaucus, LLC, et al, No. 2:13-cv-00327, complaint (D.N.J., Jan. 17, 2013). The lawsuit currently claims violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. An investigation of employment discrimination claims is still underway by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the plaintiff has stated an intent to amend her complaint should the EEOC authorize her to do so.

The plaintiff, Isabel Perez, began working for the defendant, Factory Direct of Secaucus, which operates several Ashley Furniture HomeStore locations, on September 25, 2012. In her position as human resources director, she reported to the defendant Kathy Martin, the Director of People Services and Development, and defendant Eugene Chrinian, the CEO. Perez alleges that, during the interview process for the position with both Martin and Chrinian, both defendants questioned her extensively about her marital status and her religious beliefs. Perez, who is homosexual, preferred to keep such issues private, although she did discuss her religious beliefs briefly.

Perez alleges that Martin made frequent derogatory remarks in her presence about homosexuals, as well as discriminatory remarks about other employees based on their race, ethnicity, gender, or appearance. Perez claims that she brought up her concerns with Martin about Martin’s derogatory comments to employees, as well as Martin’s invocation of her religious beliefs in routine workplace issues. On at least one occasion, Martin allegedly told Perez “to be more understanding of the Company’s ‘culture.'” Complaint at 6. Martin began most meetings with prayers, Perez claims, including “unsolicited ‘laying of the hands’ on [Perez].” Id.

While Perez tried to keep her sexual orientation, and her marriage to a woman, private, several co-workers knew about it. Perez alleges in her complaint that both Martin and Chrinian knew as well. On Friday, October 5, 2012, while walking in the parking lot, Martin allegedly asked Perez about a decal on her car. Perez explained that it was the symbol of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights organization. Perez claims that Martin expressed sudden doubt about hiring Perez, and said she needed to “speak to God” regarding Perez’s employment. Id. at 7. On Monday, October 8, Martin informed Perez of her termination, allegedly telling Perez that God told her to fire Perez.

The lawsuit, filed on January 17, 2013, asserts causes of action for retaliation under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, alleging that Perez’s termination was in part retaliation for her complaints regarding Martin’s alleged discriminatory comments against other employees. The suit also asserts a cause of action for sexual orientation discrimination in violation of New Jersey Law. A complaint to the EEOC under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is still pending with the EEOC. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not expressly prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, but the EEOC has allowed claims to proceed on that basis in recent years.

If you need to speak to a sexual orientation discrimination attorney in New Jersey or New York, contact the Resnick Law Group at 973-781-1204 or 646-867-7997.

Web Resources:

Complaint, Case No. 2:13-cv-00327, Perez v. Factory Direct of Secaucus, LLC, et al, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, Jan. 17, 2013
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Firing Employee Due to Concerns of Employer’s Wife is Not Unlawful Gender Discrimination, According to Iowa Supreme Court, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, January 7, 2013
New Jersey Passes Law Against Gender Discrimination, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, November 2, 2012
New Jersey Gender Discrimination Target of New Pay Parity Law, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, October 17, 2012
Photo credit: By David Trawin (Flickr: Secaucus, NJ) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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