Retail Chain Allegedly Fired Gay Male Employees to Cut Costs, According to Lawsuit

Home_Depot,_center_aisle,_Natick_MA.jpgA man’s lawsuit against his former employer alleges that the company created multiple pretexts ito justify firing him, and that the company discriminated against him because he is homosexual. Housh v. Home Depot USA, Inc., et al, No. 30-2013-00678843, complaint (Cal. Super. Ct., Orange Co., Oct. 1, 2013). The plaintiff further alleges that the company has sought out pretexts for firing other employees who, like the plaintiff, are older gay men. He claims that the company is acting out of concern for supposedly increased costs associated with such employees. The lawsuit asserts a total of 17 causes of action under common law and state statutes, including age discrimination, gender discrimination, wrongful termination, sexual harassment, and retaliation.

The plaintiff began working for the defendant, Home Depot, in 1987, and worked continuously for the company at several California locations for more than 25 years. He states in his complaint that management used a “Value Wheel” to protect employees from discrimination and other improper treatment. Id. at 5. He alleges that the “Value Wheel” and assorted representations made by management in connection with it constituted promises made to induce him and other employees to continue working for the company, including non-discrimination, merit-based pay and promotion, adequate benefits to prepare for retirement, and no retaliation for reporting “illegal and/or improper conduct.” Id. at 5-6. The company largely followed these promises, the plaintiff claims, until the 2008 recession.

The real estate recession that began in 2008, according to the plaintiff, had a serious impact on the company’s profits and stock price. The plaintiff alleges that the company “set a quota of employees that had to be terminated.” Id. at 8. Managers were allegedly instructed to target employees in three categories for termination: “Older/Higher Paid,” “Gay Males,” and “employees who disclosed improper or illegal conduct.” Id. The company’s management allegedly believed that benefits for gay male employees were more expensive “because of the HIV and AIDS virus.” Id. The plaintiff also claims that the company believed that the passage of California’s Domestic Partnership Equality Act in 2011, which requires employers to provide certain forms of coverage for domestic partners, would be financially damaging.

The plaintiff alleges that management at his store, where he worked as an assistant manager, subjected him to “3 admittedly false ‘write ups'” in 2011. Id. at 9. After a fourth false write up, he was terminated on February 16, 2012. He was 57 years old at the time. He claims that he was not given an opportunity to challenge the alleged infractions that led to the write ups, and that they were merely pretexts to justify firing him. He also alleges multiple instances of sexual harassment and illegal activity, including a requirement that assistant managers “purchase illegal street drugs for consumption during Home Depot social and business events.” Id. at 10.

The plaintiff’s complaint alleges wage claims under the California Labor Code, wrongful termination, strict liability for sexual harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation, age discrimination, gender discrimination, and claims related to fraudulent misrepresentation and breaches of contract. He is seeking compensatory damages, lost wages, damages for physical and mental pain, and compensation for personal property damage. He is also alleging willful and wanton misconduct in support of punitive damages.

If you need to speak to an employment attorney in New Jersey or New York regarding discrimination, including wrongful termination, based on sexual orientation or other protected categories, please contact the Resnick Law Group online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Judge Holds that Employment Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation Is Already Prohibited by Title VII, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, May 15, 2014
New Ordinance Closes Loophole Preventing New York City Unpaid Interns from Asserting Rights Against Workplace Harassment, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, April 18, 2014
Federal Law Protects Workers in New Jersey, New York, and Elsewhere from Unlawful Age Discrimination, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, January 14, 2014
Photo credit: By John Phelan (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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