By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com May 20 2013 6:48 PM ET
A gay former state employee in Texas is appealing the dismissal of his employment discrimination lawsuit, alleging his boss created a hostile work environment after the employee came to a Halloween party dressed as a geisha.
Vic Gardner worked for the Texas attorney general's office for roughly three years, during which time he received excellent performance reviews, reports the Dallas Voice. But when Gardner attended an office Halloween party dressed as a geisha girl, his supervisor assumed he was gay and began treating him differently, the suit alleges. Gardner was repeatedly disciplined until he resigned in February, according to the Voice.
Gardner's attorney, Jason Smith, notes that Gardner's former supervisor admitted he had a "religious objection" to Gardner being gay. Smith says the supervisor reportedly told Gardner, "You know who you are, but try not to be so out."
A lower court dismissed Gardner's case in 2010, finding that the AG had immunity from prosecution. Gardner appealed the decision in November 2010, but withdrew his appeal in January 2011, according the the Voice.
Gardner's latest appeal asks the court to order a jury trial and allow Gardner to seek damages for lost wages. After resigning from state office, Gardner was working at Dillards until he had a heart attack, according to the Voice. Because Gardner's new job did not offer health insurance, he had to pay his medical bills out of pocket. Gardner's attorney contends that Gardner's medical bills would have been covered by the state's health insurance and therefore believes his client should be compensated for lost wages, mental anguish, and the medical bills.
The Voice notes Texas's erratic employment nondiscrimination laws, highlighting that former AG Dan Morales, a Democrat, added sexual orientation to the department's nondiscrimination policy. But when current AG Doug Abbott, a Republican, took office in 2002, he repealed that protection. Abbott also intervened to block same-sex couples legally married in other states from obtaining divorces in Texas, and recently said he believes the Obama administration's order that federal agencies provide benefits to domestic partners violates the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.
Smith asked members of the LGBT community who are able to attend oral arguments in Gardner's case, which will be made Wednesday at approximately 9 a.m. at the courtroom inside the Price Daniel Sr. Building in Austin.