A former law firm employee has filed a West Virginia employment lawsuit, alleging he suffered harassment and discrimination by fellow employees at the company, which went unaddressed by superiors.
The West Virginia Record reports plaintiff is suing his former employer as well as a former colleague, who allegedly carried out the brunt of the harassment. Plaintiff, a Lebanese Christian, reportedly worked at the firm for more than a year, and during that time was targeted by his former boss with a series of derogatory comments regarding his religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
According to the complaint, plaintiff worked for defendant from 2014 to 2015. The same month his employment began, he said his supervisor invited him to a gay bar. Plaintiff declined, prompting defendant boss to remark that homosexual individuals enjoy being mocked. Within that same discussion, supervisor reportedly asked whether men within Arab culture were exceptionally close, or whether such relationships were only allowed “from the neck up.”
Later in that same month, plaintiff says he was assigned to work on a project with his supervisor, who provided very little guidance, made numerous last-minute changes and required that the project be re-started several times. When the project was finally finished, supervisor reportedly complained about plaintiff’s billable hours, calling them excessive. The supervisor reportedly altered plaintiff’s billable hours to a lower amount without telling him. When plaintiff complained to other superiors, he was told his supervisor’s actions were wrong.
Throughout the next several months, supervisor reportedly waltzed into plaintiff’s office unannounced and uninvited and make comments regarding the Jewish/Palestinian conflict, remarking that “all Christians” and “all Arabs” and “all religious people” were “crazy.” Defendant was reportedly aware of plaintiff’s background. On one occasion, supervisor stood directly outside plaintiff’s office, plaintiff alleges, and make a comment indicating a client specifically asked not to have “the Lebanese guy” on the team.
Plaintiff said he filed complaints with four different superiors. As the supervisor continued to make derogatory political, religious and sexual comments, some with explicit references to sexual practices. He was told simply to stay away from defendant.
In another instance, supervisor snapped a photo of plaintiff seated in the firm’s seats at a local university football game, and emailed the photo to colleagues, saying plaintiff’s presence in those seats caused him offense.
Numerous other incidents occurred over the next several months. When plaintiff discussed his concerns to a higher-ranking member of the law firm, he was told that if he sued, it would “get messy.” Despite this, he resigned and pursued his employment lawsuit, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. The law firm in question has released a statement indicating it denies the claims, plaintiff resigned of his own accord (and was not forced out) and it intends to vigorously defend the case.
As our employment lawyers in West Virginia can explain, employment discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or country of origin is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers are required by law to provide a workplace that is free of harassment on these grounds, and may be deemed liable not just for harassment by supervisors, but also by co-workers and even non-employees who may be under their control. Anyone who believes they may have been subjected to workplace harassment or discrimination should seek assistance from an experienced employment attorney.