Pennsylvania Record

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Settlement for gay man allegedly fired after reporting discrimination and harassment on the job

State Court

By Nicholas Malfitano | Feb 6, 2020

Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA – A gay man who worked at a local drug rehabilitation clinic, alleged he was harassed about his sexual orientation on the job and fired after informing his superiors of said treatment settled his case last year.

On July 30, counsel for plaintiff D’Andre Heath filed a praecipe to mark the case as settled, discontinued and ended, and specifically, discontinued with prejudice. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Heath, of Philadelphia, first filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Aug. 23, 2018, versus Gaudenzia DRC, Inc., also of Philadelphia.

Heath began working for Gaudenzia DRC as a Shift Supervisor in November 2015 and was “perceived as an individual with a homosexual orientation.”

“During plaintiff’s employment he would experience comments made by his coworkers about him, referring to him as ‘f—got’ or ‘girl’ or ‘here she comes.’ On Jan. 9, 2015, plaintiff was approached by a co-worker, Egypt Bey, who had stated that Kenneth Fitts, Operations Director, Jonathan Augidlo, and Mark Stewart were having a conversation regarding plaintiff’s sexual orientation,” the suit states.

Per the litigation, the conversation between Fitts, Augidlo and Stewart centered on some of the facility’s male residents having a problem with Heath being present during strip searches because of his sexuality; that his sexuality had “become a problem” and according to Bey, the three men were attempting to replace Heath in his role with Mr. Augidlo’s cousin, a heterosexual.

Heath reported the discrimination to Bisa Muhammed, the Operations Coordinator, and told her he had no issue contacting the facility’s executive director, Cecilia Velasquez, also a member of the LGBT community to the best of plaintiff’s knowledge.

Though Heath wanted to learn more of the conversation in question before action was taken, Muhammed spoke to Fitts and just days later, informed Heath he would not be placed on the employee schedule until he spoke with the Human Resources department, the lawsuit says.

“Human Resources director, Donna Scheckler then informed plaintiff over the phone that plaintiff is ‘not a good fit for the company.’ When plaintiff asked why he was not a good fit, Ms. Scheckler stated, ‘We have the right to do this because [Plaintiff] is still in the probationary period.’ However, prior to this, plaintiff regularly received praise in his role as Shift Supervisor and had never received and type of disciplinary action. Plaintiff received a letter stating the reason for his termination was ‘unsuccessful completion of his probationary period.”

“Plaintiff believes, and therefore avers, that he was terminated on the basis of his sexuality as he was harassed about being a different sexual orientation than other employees and homophobic comments were made at him,” the suit stated.

The defendant denied the allegations in their entirety, before the case was settled.

Prior to settlement and for sexuality discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the plaintiff was seeking all damages available at law and in equity, including: lost wages, front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, court costs, attorney fees, pre-judgment and continuing interest, and any other relief that the Court deems necessary and proper.

The plaintiff was represented by Danielle M. Parks and Colin P. Saltry of Ruppert Manes Narahari, in Philadelphia.

The defendant was represented by Marc B. Cytryn of Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall in Philadelphia and Philip R. Voluck of Kaufman Dolowich Voluck, in Blue Bell.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180802219

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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