A gay man who said he left North Carolina to take a new job in Southern California, hoping for greater acceptance of his sexual orientation, has settled a lawsuit against his former employer in which he alleged he experienced more prejudice there than he ever did in his home state.
Lawyers for William Mallette filed court papers on Monday with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Monica Bachner stating that the plaintiff’s case against DPR Construction was resolved. No term were divulged.
The suit, filed last May, alleged wrongful discharge, hostile work environment harassment, discrimination, retaliation and failure to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
In her court papers, defense attorney Margaret E. Murray denied any wrongdoing on the part of Redwood City-based DPR Construction and said the entire suit was barred by various legal doctrines.
In May 2019, Mallette said he made what for him was a difficult decision to move from Raleigh to Los Angeles. Born and raised in the South, he had seen “all the ills of bigotry and racism firsthand and, as a result, always kept his sexual orientation a secret, revealing it only on a need-to-know basis, especially to his employers,” according to his court papers.
When the chance to work in Southern California as a safety professional for DPR at an annual salary of $85,000 arose, he decided to take a chance and move, believing that in one of the most liberal states in the U.S. he would be able to be open about his sexual orientation “without any consequence or fear of reprisal,” according to his lawsuit.
But Mallette says he soon found out that was not the case. At DPR, he alleged he endured “the most disturbing and disgusting harassment and discrimination he had ever experienced and then found himself out of a job because he purportedly did not fit DPR’s culture,” despite exceeding company expectations and being praised for his work.
Beneath all the positive feedback, Mallette says he “quietly suffered through derogatory locker-room talk regarding his sexual orientation” beginning last July. He claimed his direct supervisor called him a homophobic slur in front of another employee who “joined in on the harassing banter,” with both telling the plaintiff, “You’re obviously gay. There’s no need for you to hide it.”
Mallette said he denied he was gay, hoping the insults would stop, but the supervisor and the other worker responded with skepticism, saying, “We know you’re gay because you told us you bought two lamps. If you had only bought one lamp, we’d know you weren’t gay.”
Mallette alleged his work environment deteriorated further after his supervisor impeded his ability to do his job by refusing to help or grant him assistance when work issues arose. Mallette persevered and did not let his boss’s alleged retaliation discourage him, but in December 2019, a human resources representative told him he was being fired because he “did not fit DPR’s culture,” according to his court papers.
Mallette says he asked for an explanation, but was not given one. When he then inquired if he was losing his job because of his sexual orientation, his boss “immediately apologized,” according to the suit.
Three days later, he says DPR Construction sent him a letter stating the company decided to fire him “after receiving a complaint of unprofessional behavior towards a client, which includes sending an inappropriate text message to a client representative.”
The suit alleged the grounds for firing him cited by the company were pretextual and that ” to suggest that within a few weeks, plaintiff went from being a star performer at the company to someone now unable to do work consistent with DPR’s behavior-based safety program, is absurd.”
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