Gender non-conforming man claims wrongful dismissal

A Bucks County gender non-conforming man has filed a federal antibias lawsuit, claiming wrongful termination due to bias regarding his perceived sexual orientation.

On April 7, “John Doe” filed a lawsuit seeking more than $150,000 in damages, claiming various coworkers at Heubach Ltd. repeatedly referred to him as a “faggot” — including in writing — and accused him of having oral sex with another male in the workplace.

Heubach manufactures pigments for paints, dyes and other forms of colorings. It’s located on Newbold Road in Fairless Hill, Pa. Doe worked as director of technology at Heubach from February 2020 to February 2022. His annual salary was $108,000.

Almost from the beginning, Doe allegedly endured a hostile workplace, due to homophobia and gender stereotyping, according to his 35-page lawsuit.

“Plaintiff was repeatedly questioned about whether or not he was married or had a girlfriend,” according to the lawsuit.

Doe would tell coworkers that his marital status was “none of your concern.” In fact, Doe isn’t gay, according to the lawsuit.

On April 9, 2020, a high-ranking Heubach manager referred to Doe as a “faggot” during an online chat session with Doe. Rather than replying to the slur, Doe took a screenshot of the chat, which he included as an exhibit accompanying the lawsuit.

Doe reported the slur to Heubach’s chief operating officer, to no avail, according to the lawsuit.

Doe alleges that numerous other Heubach managers would use the word “fag” or “faggot” in his presence, though the slurs weren’t necessarily directed against him, according to the lawsuit.

The upper-level managers created an abusive atmosphere within the company, thus resulting in numerous lower-level employees using homophobic slurs in Doe’s presence, according to the lawsuit.

In the summer of 2021, a high-ranking Heubach official accused Doe of receiving oral sex from a Heubach manager in the company’s restroom. “I saw [the manager] sucking your dick,” the high-ranking official allegedly told Doe.

The lawsuit doesn’t specify whether Doe made any reply to the allegation.

On Feb. 24, 2022, Doe was subjected to tangible, adverse employment action by being unlawfully terminated, on account of discrimination, according to Doe’s lawsuit. “Doe’s termination was because of his perceived sexual orientation and/or gender stereotypes,” the lawsuit states.

However, Doe allegedly was given a fraudulent reason for his firing. Company officials claimed Doe delegated one of his job tasks to another Heubach employee. Doe’s lawsuit seeks to demonstrate that numerous other Heubach employees delegated job tasks to coworkers without being fired.

“The fact that Doe was perceived or assumed to be gay was a motivating factor in Doe’s discharge,” Doe’s lawsuit adds.

Doe alleges wrongful termination, hostile work environment, retaliation, gender stereotyping and harassment. A jury trial has been requested.

Doe is requesting more than $150,000 in damages, to compensate him for back pay, front pay, overtime, benefits, bonuses, commissions, and promotions he would have received; compensatory damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, anxiety, depression, humiliation, embarrassment and emotional distress; punitive damages; reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs; injunctive relief requiring Heubach to conduct LGBT sensitivity training for all employees; a neutral employment reference for Doe provided by Heubach; and an apology to Doe provided by Heubach.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Gerald A. McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. On April 10, 2023, McHugh ruled that Doe could proceed anonymously in the litigation. But McHugh said he’d reconsider his decision if Heubach’s attorneys oppose his ruling. 

“[Doe] has demonstrated a legitimate fear of future harm if his name is associated with this lawsuit given that his family, friends, and religious community are not accepting of the LGBTQ community,” McHugh opined. “[T]here is a public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of [Doe] in such a sensitive matter involving purely legal issues; and nothing suggests that [Doe] has an improper motive in proceeding anonymously.”  

McHugh also said Doe’s attorneys must provide McHugh and Heubach’s attorneys with Doe’s real name, which will be kept confidential.

Neither side had any comment for this story.