A former coach and physical education teacher has filed suit against his former employer, alleging that he faced unlawful discrimination and was fired in retaliation for speaking out. Kenney v. Trinity School, et al, No. 161600/2013, complaint (NY Sup. Ct., NY Co., Dec. 17, 2013). This case might seem unusual because the plaintiff is a married, heterosexual male with children who alleges that his supervisor, an unmarried homosexual female, discriminated against him based on sexual orientation and marital status. He is asserting causes of action under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), NY Exec. L. § 296, and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), NYC Admin. Code § 8-107.
According to his complaint, the plaintiff was hired in 1997 to work on a contract basis at the Trinity School in Manhattan. His contract was renewed annually for sixteen years. He claims that he had a good employment record and generally got along with administrators, teachers, and staff at the school. This changed, he claims, when “a homosexual, single, female administrator with no children” became his supervisor. Kenney, complaint at 3. The supervisor allegedly discriminated against him because he is a fifty year-old married man with children.
While the plaintiff had previously received positive reviews on his work, he claims that the new supervisor routinely “berated and reprimanded” him. Id. She also allegedly gave preferential treatment to a younger, unmarried female teacher who did not have children, as well as other similarly-situated employees. The plaintiff claims that the supervisor assigned him work duties that exceeded the requirements of his contract, and refused to take his family responsibilities into account in planning for school activities. He claims that younger, unmarried teachers were not required to perform additional duties.
He alleges that he reported his concerns to the school administration, but that they took no action. The school terminated him in June 2012, allegedly in violation of his contract, after the supervisor made what he calls false charges of misconduct. He claims that the school hired two people to replace him: a “homosexual female” teacher and a “younger male without children” to take over as coach. Id. at 6.
The lawsuit asserts thirteen causes of action under state and municipal law. Two causes of action allege breach of contract and, alternatively, unjust enrichment, and the other eleven assert claims under the NYSHRL and the NYCHRL. The plaintiff claims discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, age, and marital status under both statutes, as well as retaliation under both laws. He also asserts a cause of action under the NYSHRL for aiding and abetting against the supervisor and the administrator. He is asking for front pay, back pay, and other damages, as well as injunctions against further employment law violations.
It might seem unusual to see a claim of sexual orientation discrimination brought by a heterosexual person, but state and city law do not allow any type of discrimination based on that factor, regardless of the individuals involved. New York and New Jersey are among twenty-one states, along with the District of Columbia, that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Had the plaintiff experienced this sort of alleged treatment in a state that does not protect against sexual orientation discrimination, he might not have been able to file suit.
If you need to speak to an employment attorney in New Jersey or New York regarding sex discrimination, retaliation, or other unlawful employment practices, please contact the Resnick Law Group at 973-781-1204 or 646-867-7997.
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Photo credit: By Jim.henderson (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.