The Library of Congress might be on the verge of facing legal action for the first time in its history. The reason? A former management analyst claims he was basically fired for being gay.
Peter TerVeer had received glowing reviews from his supervisor, John Mech, since being hired in 2008. But then he "liked" the "Two Dads" page on Facebook, and things took a turn for the worse.
Shortly after, TerVeer said, he started to receive emails from Mech that contained “religiously motivated harassment and discrimination.” Mech then called him into a meeting for the purposes of “educating him on hell and that it awaited him for being a homosexual.”TerVeer filed a claim with the LOC's Equal Employment Opportunity Office, which is standard practice for a legislative branch agency. He alleges that Mech discriminated against him on the basis of sexual orientation and religious beliefs. If the office rules against him (it has until mid-May to review it), TerVeer can go to the EEOC, and from there to the courts. If it gets that far, it would be the first such action ever against the LOC.
A performance review came back from Mech containing, for the first time in TerVeer’s career at the LOC, less than stellar marks. TerVeer said that each time he challenged Mech about the review, he responded with verbal abuse and name-calling, often humiliating him in front of peers.
All this resulted, TerVeer said, in an emotional response so great that his doctor ordered him to go on extended medical leave.
He was ultimately fired for missing 37 consecutive workdays, though TerVeer maintains that library officials had signed off on his request for disability time off.
While there's no explicit protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, past precedent suggests TerVeer's suit could go somewhere. Back in 2009, the LOC withdrew a job offer to an applicant undergoing a sex-change procedure. The EEOC ruled that this was impermissible sex discrimination.
Even without that to consider, it sounds like TerVeer has a slam-dunk case based on religious discrimination. If a supervisor calling someone into his office and giving a hellfire-and-brimstone lecture isn't creating a hostile work environment, frankly I don't know what is. Where I work, rank-and-filers have been known to get written up for doing far less than that. Indeed, TerVeer's lawyer told Today that he's hammering on the religious discrimination aspect more than anything.