Postal service seeks dismissal of gay man’s antibias case

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Attorneys for U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy recently asked a federal judge to dismiss the antibias case of a Lehigh County gay man who claims he was wrongfully terminated as a letter carrier due to his sexual orientation and HIV-positive status.

“John Doe,” 56,  worked at the Postal Road branch of the United States Postal Service in Allentown for about 12 years until he was fired in August 2019 for allegedly kicking a co-worker. Doe denies kicking the co-worker but acknowledges touching her leg with his foot, according to court papers.

“No, I didn’t do anything wrong,” Doe told PGN, in a prior interview. “We were standing in a line and I was just alerting her [with my foot] that I was behind her. I immediately apologized. I apologized a total of four times and she accepted my apology.”

Doe alleges that colleagues accused of much worse behavior such as spitting on a co-worker, or pulling the hair of a co-worker, or poking a co-worker in the eye, or being intoxicated on the job weren’t dismissed, according to court papers. 

Still, management decided to dismiss Doe for his alleged transgression. In December 2019, Doe filed an antibias lawsuit against the USPS, alleging wrongful termination and hostile work environment due to his LGBT status and his HIV status. He seeks more than $150,000 in damages and reinstatement. His annual salary was about $62,000 at the time of his dismissal, according to court papers.

On Sept. 4, attorneys for the named defendant, Louis DeJoy, asked U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Leeson Jr. of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to toss out Doe’s case on the basis of a technicality. In a 19-page brief, DeJoy’s attorneys argued that Doe was required to contact an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor at the USPS for guidance about his situation within 45 days of the last act of discrimination he allegedly experienced.

The defense brief states that Doe missed the 45-day deadline by at least six days. On June 14, 2019, Doe received a notice of dismissal stating an effective date of July 20, 2019. Pursuant to the 45-day deadline, Doe should have contacted an EEO counselor at the USPS by Sept. 3, 2019. Doe, however, didn’t contact an EEO counselor until Sept. 9, 2019, according to the defense brief.

“On this basis, Doe’s claims must be dismissed,” the defense brief asserts.

For his part, Doe maintains the effective date of his dismissal was extended to Aug. 19, 2019, to give him the ability to resign rather than to be fired. He claims the Aug. 19, 2019, date of dismissal was conveyed to him by his union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, and he has documentation to prove it, according to court papers.

Moreover, Doe claims he didn’t realize the full extent of anti-LGBT bias within the USPS branch he worked at until informed of it by a former co-worker in August 2019.

According to court records, after Doe’s termination, a former co-worker conveyed to Doe in August 2019 that other co-workers referred to him behind his back as a “sick faggot,” “homo,” “stinky,” and someone who “sucks big dick.”

The former co-worker also conveyed to Doe that the woman whom he allegedly kicked expressed pleasure that the “fruitcake” was fired. Moreover, the former co-worker provided Doe with a text he received from a colleague stating: “If [Doe] wins [his case] I’ll refuse to work near AIDS boy.”

After receiving this information, Doe contacted an EEO counselor at USPS for guidance on Sept. 9, which was clearly within the 45-day deadline to do so, according to Doe’s lawsuit.

Attorneys for DeJoy had no comment for this update.

Doe’s attorney, Justin F. Robinette, said Doe’s case shouldn’t be dismissed on a technicality. “My client is ready, willing and able to go back to work,” he said. “But the Post Office is fighting him every step of the way. Attorneys for Mr. DeJoy are grasping at straws. They’re attempting to dismiss the case on a technicality. I’m hoping the court will reject their position and allow this case to move forward.”

As of presstime, Leeson hadn’t ruled on DeJoy’s request for dismissal of the case.