Gay man’s wrongful termination lawsuit against Philadelphia Housing Authority moves forward

A federal judge has cleared the way for the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Daniel Angelis against the Philadelphia Housing Authority to be heard by a jury.

PHA is a municipal authority providing public housing services in the city. It’s the fourth-largest housing authority in the United States and is the largest landlord in Pennsylvania, housing more than 76,000 people in Philadelphia. It was created in 1937, at a time when numerous people were dying in slum dwellings due to unsafe conditions.

Angelis, 48, is a gay resident of South Philadelphia. He claims he was discriminated against by PHA due to his sexual orientation when he worked there as a network technician from September 2020 to December 2020.

According to Angelis’ federal lawsuit, shortly after he was hired, he disclosed his sexual orientation to co-workers and supervisors. He also disclosed that he suffers from anxiety, which is disabling for him.

On Oct. 6, 2020, a co-worker manhandled agency equipment in a boisterous manner. When asked to quiet down, the coworker allegedly replied: “Someone has to know that a man works here,” and looked at Angelis dismissively, according to the lawsuit.

The co-worker also called Angelis a “faggot” on the same day, according to the lawsuit.

The following day, a different co-worker asked Angelis how to spell his surname and a supervisor replied: “A-S-S-H-O-L-E,” according to the lawsuit.

Angelis’ anxiety increased due to the alleged mistreatment at PHA. He requested “flexibility in calling out from work,” along with periodic reviews of his work performance — to no avail, according to the lawsuit.

Supervisors began retaliating against Angelis after he requested reasonable accommodations for his disability (anxiety disorder), according to the lawsuit.

For example, a supervisor refused to provide Angelis with the necessary tools and resources to perform his job. The supervisor also muttered “fucking faggot” under his breath, while in the presence of Angelis, according to the lawsuit.

On Nov. 19, 2020, Angelis filed a formal complaint with PHA, alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, sex and disability. After Angelis filed the complaint, he was subjected to “unwarranted criticism” within PHA, according to the lawsuit.

Additionally, a supervisor asked heterosexual PHA workers about their Thanksgiving plans but ignored Angelis. By doing so, the supervisor signaled his disapproval of Angelis’ “home life as a gay individual,” according to the lawsuit.

On Dec. 2, 2020, Angelis was terminated for being “too combative.” However, Angelis contends he was actually terminated due to “sexual orientation and/or disability discrimination and/or in retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation.”

Angelis filed suit in federal court last year, seeking more than $150,00 in compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys fees. 

PHA asked U.S. District Judge Richard B. Surrick to dismiss Angelis’ lawsuit as meritless. On Feb. 15, in a 43-page ruling, Surrick denied PHA’s request and cleared the way for a jury trial regarding Angelis’ sexual-orientation discrimination claims.

However, Surrick dismissed several of Angelis’ claims relating to sex discrimination, disability discrimination and retaliation.

Attorneys for Angelis had no comment for this story.

Nichole Tillman, a spokesperson for PHA, issued this statement: “Daniel Angelis was terminated from his employment with the Philadelphia Housing Authority shortly after he was hired, after failing to satisfactorily complete his 90-day probationary period. After his termination, [Angelis] filed a lawsuit making a number of allegations, all of which PHA denies. PHA filed a motion to dismiss [Angelis’] amended complaint. The Court granted PHA’s motion, in part, dismissing a substantial number of [Angelis’] claims. The Court is giving [Angelis] the opportunity to prove his remaining allegations, stemming from alleged statements made by a co-worker. PHA denies violating any laws and continues to deny the remaining allegations, which PHA intends to vigorously defend against in court.”

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