A gay Jenkintown man has filed suit against Kelly Services Global LLC after being terminated from a job assignment for allegedly touching a male coworker inappropriately.
Kelly Services is a global employment agency based in Troy, Michigan that assigns people primarily to temporary employment.
In May 2018, Kelly Services assigned “John Doe” to a job as a call-center agent at Medtronics, a Bala Cynwyd-based company that facilitates diabetic supplies deliveries. Doe worked there until Aug. 18, 2018, when he allegedly was fired for touching another male on the shoulder.
In a 33-page lawsuit filed June 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Doe denies touching the worker inappropriately. His complaints against Kelly Services include wrongful termination, harassment, hostile work environment, gender stereotyping and retaliation.
Doe asserts that, in August 2018, he tried to get a coworker’s attention by tapping him on the shoulder. The coworker allegedly said, “Don’t f-----g touch me.” Doe said the employee’s disproportionate response was a reaction to Doe’s sexual orientation, according to the lawsuit.
Doe’s lawsuit goes on to note that Kelly employees frequently touch each other without being disciplined. Doe told supervisors in an email: “I feel the policy is being used inappropriately against me in a discriminatory way because a coworker didn’t want me to touch him specifically due to [my] orientation.”
According to the lawsuit, “[Kelly Services] would not have discharged a person under similar circumstances who was not gay, as such conduct would not have been considered offensive under similar circumstances coming from a person who is not gay.”
“At Kelly, we take every lawsuit very seriously, and we strive to foster a workplace free of discrimination and retaliation,” said Jane Stehney, a spokesperson for Kelly Services. “We are in the process of investigating the allegations made in the referenced lawsuit. As a matter of policy, and in the interests of protecting the privacy of all parties, we are not at liberty to discuss the specifics of this litigation at this time.”
Doe also alleges he was subject to a hostile work environment. For example, he claims coworkers asked him intrusive questions about his sexual preferences, including whether he was a “top” or a “bottom.”
Some coworkers shunned Doe while others went out of their way to harass him, according to the lawsuit. Slurs hurled at Doe include “f-----g f----t,” “burning a-s f----t,” and “worthless piece of s--t.” One coworker complained about Doe staring at him. In his defense, Doe told a supervisor he simply makes eye contact when speaking to someone, according to the lawsuit.
Another co-worker threw a cigarette lighter at Doe, which hit him in the eye, the lawsuit states. Doe complained to upper management about the alleged assault, to no avail.
Another coworker, who routinely harassed Doe, warned him not to complain or “‘I’ll smack the s--t out of you.” That employee also texted Doe to “Kiss my Black a-s you f----t.” Moreover, the employee would make “flamboyant hand gestures around Doe intended to be offensive to the LGBT community,” according to the lawsuit.
Doe seeks in excess of $150,000 in damages along with reasonable attorney’s fees. Additionally, he seeks reemployment by Kelly Services at a different worksite; that he be provided a neutral reference by Kelly Services; and that Kelly Services implement antibias training for its workers.
The case is expected to be settled through binding arbitration, said Doe’s attorney Justin F. Robinette.
“Against our will, we’re being forced into mandatory arbitration,” Robinette told PGN. “Unfortunately, my client signed away his right to a fair trial if terminated. He didn’t know he signed it. But we are being forced to go before an arbitrator rather than a judge. So my client will never get his day in court. And I’m very concerned about the fairness of the mandatory arbitration process that we’re being forced into.”