Hostile Work Environment Lawsuit Filed Following Sexual Orientation Comment

A New Jersey healthcare billing company has been charged by the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights with creating a hostile work environment after one of its employees was subjected to a comment about her sexual orientation and then fired for complaining about it. Metropolitan Healthcare Billing of Eatontown is the subject of a Finding of Probable Cause from the state’s Attorney General and Division on Civil Rights.

The original complaint was filed by Brandy Rodriguez, an account representative who had worked for the company for two-and-a-half years before being fired in 2016. Ms. Rodriguez is a lesbian, a fact that was known to her direct supervisor, the company’s Director of Business Operations. At a meeting attended by her colleagues and a new employee, the director said that Rodriguez could use her “gaydar” to help her determine whether a new client was also a lesbian. Following the meeting Rodriguez addressed the comment with her supervisor, telling them that it had made her feel uncomfortable, that the comment was unprofessional, and that she preferred to inform new employees about her orientation on her own terms and in her own time. The supervisor dismissed her comments on the grounds that they had heard her use the term “gaydar” herself within the workplace.

Following this discussion, Ms. Rodriguez attempted to discuss the issue with the company’s owner, skipping the Human Resources Coordinator because she was the Director of Business Operations’ sister and she felt that she had nowhere else to report the incident. She was fired by her supervisor immediately after having attempted this contact.

The Finding of Probable Cause is a statement that a preliminary investigation has been completed and that there is sufficient evidence to support a reasonable suspicion of a violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. In this case it indicates that the supervisor’s comments were “sufficiently severe that a reasonable employee … could find her work environment hostile or abusive,” and goes on to point out the particular challenges posed by the fact that the Human Resources Coordinator was the supervisor’s sister.

The NJLAD is one of the country’s most robust laws protecting employees from discrimination and ensuring that everybody is treated fairly and with dignity. If you believe that you have been a victim of discrimination or a hostile work environment, these laws serve you and help you get the justice you deserve. For information on how we can help, contact our employment discrimination law firm today to set up a time for a consultation.

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