George Gorham, a former employee of Devereux Foundation, has filed suit against the behavioral-health agency for alleged wrongful termination due to his sexual orientation.
Devereux is a behavior health agency based in Villanova, Pa. Gorham worked at a Devereux service center located in West Chester, Pa., according to court papers.
Gorham, of Smyrna, Delaware, filed suit against Devereux in federal court last month.
The 12-page lawsuit alleges that Devereux violated state and federal antibias laws when firing Gorham.
Gorham identifies as a gay man. He began working at the non-profit in August 2019 as a “direct support professional,” according to the lawsuit.
Shortly after he commenced working at Devereux, Gorham became aware that his sexual orientation was discovered and disclosed at the workplace beyond the extent to which he felt comfortable, according to the lawsuit.
After that occurred, Gorham began noticing that his direct supervisor would avoid speaking to him, though the supervisor would speak to other employees who weren’t known to be gay, according to the lawsuit.
Gorham also noticed that when he would approach the supervisor to speak to him — which was often necessary as part of his job — the supervisor would quickly walk away to avoid speaking with him, according to the lawsuit.
When Gorham would walk by the supervisor during the course of the work day, the supervisor would turn in the opposite direction, to avoid having any contact with him, according to the lawsuit.
Despite this alleged behavior on the part of the supervisor, Gorham performed his work duties without any “issue,” according to the lawsuit.
In November 2019, Gorham was approached by a non-LGBT coworker who informed Gorham that “people” were inquiring about his sexual orientation, according to the lawsuit.
Gorham doesn’t know whether the coworker was referring to Devereux’s clients or employees, according to the lawsuit.
On Nov. 27, 2019, about one week after Gorham’s conversation with the non-LGBT coworker, Gorham’s employment with Devereux was terminated, according to the lawsuit.
“[Devereux] claimed that [Gorham[ was terminated for violating [Devereux’s] cell phone policy and/or arguing with a police officer,” the lawsuit continues. “However, [Devereux] did not follow their progressive disciplinary policy, as [Gorham] was not afforded counseling, a written warning or a final warning prior to termination.”
Other Devereux employees who aren’t openly gay received multiple write-ups when they violated Devereux’s cell phone policy but weren’t fired, according to the lawsuit.
Following his termination, a Devereux manager allegedly told Gorham: “This [is] not the first time something like this [has] happened.” Moreover, the manager allegedly advised Gorham to sue Devereux, according to the lawsuit.
Gorham is seeking more than $150,000 in damages from Devereux for economic losses along with emotional distress and mental anguish. He’s also asking Devereux to be responsible for his attorneys’ fees and costs, according to the lawsuit.
His allegations against Devereux include wrongful termination, hostile work environment, harassment and retaliation, according to the lawsuit.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A jury trial has been requested.
A spokesperson for Devereux issued the following statement: “These claims are completely contrary to Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s longstanding commitment and reputation for advocacy and support of the entire LGBTQ community. In fact, for the last decade, we have taken on the role of outspoken LGBTQ advocate, committed to raising the standards of inclusivity and respect across all our service areas, programs and offerings. For more information on our commitment to eliminating discrimination and supporting the LGBTQ community visit our website. Our detailed response will be available in November.”
Attorneys for Gorham had no comment for this story.