Last week, a Philadelphia gay man filed suit in federal court, claiming he was wrongfully discharged from his job as a title searcher due to anti-LGBT bias. “John Doe,” 63, sued Land Title Services based in Mount Laurel, N.J., alleging wrongful discharge due to his status as an older gay man. The company claims COVID-19 forced it to lay off numerous workers. But Doe alleges that seven non-LGBT title searchers were retained by LTS, despite his commendable skillset and extensive job experience.
On Jan. 5, Doe’s 41-page lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It’s been assigned to Chief Judge Juan R. Sanchez and a jury trial has been requested. Doe is seeking in excess of $150,000 in damages and remedial measures at LTS.
According to Doe’s lawsuit, he worked for LTS for 13 years and “commendably” performed a variety of duties related to his job as a title searcher. A title searcher basically searches public records to determine the legal chain of ownership for pieces of real estate. Doe also performed foreclosure searches within Philadelphia County.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, LTS laid off numerous workers including Doe, without providing adequate explanation for its staffing decisions, according to the lawsuit.
After Doe filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, LTS allegedly provided false, pretextual reasons for dismissing Doe, including that he couldn’t perform complex work assignments, according to the lawsuit.
“Many of the statements made by [LTS] about Doe to the EEOC are false,
inaccurate, and insincere characterizations of Doe’s skills, contributions, abilities, and work performance, for thirteen years…in order to cover up discrimination against him,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit emphasizes that Doe performed all of his duties in a capable manner. “Doe had only received positive performance reviews and never received write-ups or written warnings during his tenure,” the lawsuit states.
Doe was believed to be the only LGBT worker at LTS during the time he was dismissed. “Among those [workers] to be retained were believed to be only heterosexual men,” the lawsuit asserts. “Doe is a single gay man.”
Doe was subjected to multiple anti-LGBT comments by coworkers while working at LTS. One coworker allegedly commented that he was “opposed to the gay lifestyle,” in Doe’s presence. Another coworker allegedly said that he “would never want any of [my] family members to be gay,” and that he would “hate it if [my] kids were gay,” according to the lawsuit.
A co-worker who was a Jehovah’s Witness allegedly said he didn’t agree with “homosexuality,” which is a derogatory term to use for sexual orientation, according to the lawsuit.
Moreover, an owner of LTS was quoted in a local newspaper as promoting traditional “family values,” according to the lawsuit.
Doe emphatically denies that he cannot handle complex work assignments.
“[Doe] denies and disputes that he cannot handle work with a high level of complexity,” the lawsuit states. “A gay person can handle work at the same level of complexity, including at a ‘higher level of complexity, et cetera,’ as compared with a heterosexual person…[LTS] targeted Doe first among others for termination of his employment during the COVID-19 pandemic because Doe is gay.”
In EEOC papers, attorneys for LTS denied any wrongdoing in the matter. “LTS’ business was dramatically impacted by COVID-19 and there was a significant decline in business volume,” attorneys for LTS wrote. “Therefore, LTS had no choice but to lay off
most of its [title searchers]. [Doe] was selected for lay off because his skillset was lacking compared to those who were retained, and there was not enough work for him to perform using his skillset.”
Attorneys for LTS said the company laid off 32 title searchers due to the pandemic and retained only seven title searchers. “[Doe] was selected for layoff for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons,” LTS attorneys reiterated.
LTS attorneys also denied that Doe was subjected to a homophobic work environment. “Respondents vehemently deny that any such [homophobic] comments were made and submit that [Doe] offers no evidence — other than his own unsupported allegations — that these comments were in fact made,” LTS attorneys wrote.
In addition to monetary damages, Doe is seeking reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs; a court order for LTS to conduct LGBT sensitivity training for its employees; a neutral job reference for Doe and an apology from LTS to Doe.
Neither side had a comment for this story.