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A New Jersey School District Agrees to Pay a Settlement to an Employee who Allegedly Suffered Discrimination Because He Was a Single Gay Man and a Foster Parent

Sometimes, the alleged facts that support a worker’s employment discrimination lawsuit show blatant discrimination. An executive manager, who emails his HR director with instructions to fire a pregnant receptionist because she’s a “liability” and also instructs the HR director not to bring any more pregnant employees onboard, would likely be proof of clear pregnancy discrimination. Many times, the proof upon which you must rely involves actions that are much more subtle, making success more challenging but far from impossible. Whether your case involves blatant discrimination or subtle discrimination, an experienced New Jersey employment attorney can help you enhance your chances of a successful result.

J.L. was someone who allegedly faced workplace discrimination on multiple fronts – both as a gay man and as a foster parent. As this blog reported two years ago, J.L., a social worker for a South Jersey school district, allegedly was the target of an extensive wave of disparaging remarks and more from coworkers due to his status as a single gay man and a foster parent.

According to the lawsuit, which the social worker and the school district settled in October after J.L. began pursuing foster parenting, coworkers began telling him things regarding how he didn’t need foster kids, but rather needed “to find a woman and have kids with a woman” or to “just get another pet.”

The coworkers allegedly concluded that J.L. was not competent to have children because he was a single man. According to the lawsuit, J.L. received comments that stated that he was not a “real parent.”

The alleged discrimination escalated to include things like the denial of a personal day that J.L. needed to take a foster child to a doctor’s appointment. The coworkers also, in J.L.’s presence, allegedly made disparaging comments about the LGBT club at a district high school and a school employee who assisted the club.

The social worker’s lawsuit asserted that the totality of these actions amounted to familial status and sexual orientation discrimination.

None of the allegations were of the most extreme variety. The social worker was not demoted or fired. The complaint did not allege that coworkers used severe slurs like the “f word” or said that J.L.’s sexual orientation made him a deviant who should be legally barred from being a foster parent.

‘Unwelcome homophobic comments’ may equal a ‘hostile work environment’

This case is useful in pointing out that the discrimination one suffers doesn’t have to be extreme to amount to a violation of the Law Against Discrimination. The law says that “unwelcome homophobic comments” by fellow employees can create an actionable case of hostile work environment discrimination.

So, you don’t need proof of a daily deluge of the most horrific forms of homophobic epithets or extreme threats. The law simply says that the harm you suffered must have been either severe or pervasive.

In this case, the social worker’s allegations were strong enough to get the school district to the negotiating table to work out a settlement. According to, the school district agreed to pay $55,000 in exchange for the dismissal of the lawsuit.

Whether you plan to litigate all the way to a verdict or may consider settling, you need the most persuasive sexual orientation discrimination case possible to generate the successful outcome you deserve. In other words, you need a powerful legal team representing you. Look to the knowledgeable workplace discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates to be that effective advocate for your needs. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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