Discrimination Charge Leveled Against Company Lauded by HRC
BY Parker Marie Molloy
January 08 2014 11:38 AM ET
The city of San Antonio has received its first complaint under the city’s recently implemented nondiscrimination ordinance. The complaint, filed yesterday, comes from a transgender man who believes he was fired by AT&T on the basis of his gender identity. The telecommunications company recently received a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.
San Antonio's City Council adopted the nondiscrimination ordinance September 5, following months of debate. The ordinance protects city employees and contractors against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and also prohibits discrimination in housing and public accommodations citywide.
Yesterday, attorney Justin P. Nichols filed a complaint on behalf of Matthew Hileman, charging that AT&T discriminated against Hileman after he came forward about harassment he had faced from coworkers.
Hileman began working at AT&T, a contractor for the city of San Antonio, in May on behalf of an IT consulting firm called Resource Global Professionals. At the time of his hiring, Hileman didn’t disclose his transgender status to his employers.
On or about September 4, Hileman overheard a conversation between two of his coworkers, Ropel Anderson and Gerry Bush. According to the complaint's account, the two men were discussing the nondiscrimination ordinance, just one day before it ultimately came to a vote.
“Anderson and Bush were specifically and personally overheard by Hileman stating their desire and willingness to commit acts of violence against transgender persons, particularly if such a person was discovered in a restroom," reads the complaint. "Anderson and Bush’s comments included such violence and discriminatory content that Hileman feared for his safety and security.”
After overhearing this conversation, Hileman says, he brought the incident up with his supervisor, Hortencia Morales, who in turn reported it to Ralph Elke, her supervisor. Shortly thereafter, Elke informed Bush that Hileman was transgender and that he had filed an incident report.
On September 7, Hileman officially filed a complaint with AT&T’s human resources department, which, he claims, insisted that he sign a document saying he felt safe to continue working. He did this, and returned to work.
On September 18, Hileman says. found a piece of paper in his chair. The complaint alleges the paper contained the word “fag” with a line drawn through it, similar to a “no smoking” sign. Citing safety concerns, Hileman left work and reported the incident to his supervisor.
Hileman, no longer feeling safe in his work environment, asked to be reassigned and was reportedly given the opportunity to pack his personal belongings. Days later, Hileman received an email informing him that the remainder of his belongings would be shipped to him.
Hileman contends that was the last he heard from either AT&T or Resource Global Professionals. Hileman says he was only able to confirm that he was no longer employed with either company when his claim for unemployment benefits went through uncontested.
The complaint points to AT&T as a corporate LGBT ally and calls on the city to work with the company in an effort to comply with the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.
“Hileman is primarily concerned with finding solutions. As you’re aware, the NDO does not provide an individual remedy for Hileman,” the complaint states. “The City’s investigation and ultimate action relating to this complaint will be only those options allowed by the NDO and other ordinances. But, Hileman requests the city assist the parties in reconciling their differences and remain focused on ensuring others don’t encounter similar treatment in the future.”
While the nondiscrimination ordinance may not provide Hileman with a path to personal remuneration, he has not waived his right to file a lawsuit against AT&T.