Welcome to the new world of discrimination lawsuits: A federal district court has ruled in favor of a gay telephone sales agent who alleges his employer discriminated against him because he took his husband’s last name.
Jason Koren was hired by Ohio Bell. Shortly after his three-month training period began, he claimed, his trainer learned that Koren was gay and that he’d changed his last name.
He was immediately “stereotyped,” he said, pointing to the fact that he was issued two training completion certificates — one in the name of Jason Koren and another in his pre-marriage name, Jason Cabot.
Things apparently didn’t improve once he was assigned to the sales floor. Koren said he wasn’t assigned a sales coach — a sort of mentor — for three or four weeks after he arrived on the job.
And he claimed his manager, Kim Miceli, persisted in referring to him as “Cabot” even after he formally requested that she call him by his married name.
Miceli, Koren said, said she refused to recognize his marriage or his name change.
In addition, Koren said he was shut out of team meetings, saw a customer’s positive recommendation posted over a bathroom urinal instead of in the hallway with other employees’ recommendations, and was denied access to Ohio Bell jobs that were posted on the company intranet.
Finally, after being absent from work for several days following the death of his father, Koren was fired. He filed suit alleging he’d been discriminated against.
Didn’t conform to stereotype
Koren’s claim was that he was discharged because he failed to conform to gender stereotypes. The company claimed he’d been fired on account of excessive absences.
But the court came down on Koren’s side. Discrimination against a person on account of their non-conformance with popularr stereotypes does indeed fall under gender bias, the court ruled.
“And Koren has evidence that Ohio Bell discriminated against him because Koren took his husband’s last name — failing to conform with the male stereotype,” the judge wrote.
Thus, the court denied Ohio Bell’s motion to dismiss the case — which means the company can appeal the denial, or face a trial and possible settlement. None of which are exactly positive options for any employer.
The case is Koren v. Ohio Bell Telephone.