An auditor who says he was fired by the US Library of Congress after his boss discovered he was gay via Facebook has filed a federal lawsuit this month in a US District Court for the District of Columbia.
Peter TerVeer, a Hope College graduate, said his boss, John Mech, who holds fundamentalist religious beliefs, deliberately made his work environment difficult after discovering he was gay and worked to have him fired.
Officially, the lawsuit charges that Mr TerVeer, 30, suffered employment discrimination based on his gender, gender stereotyping and his religious beliefs in violation of Title VII of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It also charges that Mr Mech and library official Nicholas Christopher – Mr Mech’s immediate supervisor – further violated Title VII by retaliating against Mr TerVeer when he attempted to challenge their actions via an internal library complaint.
“Mech imposed his sex stereotypes and fundamentalist religious beliefs on homosexuality upon the plaintiff, resulting in a hostile working environment,” the lawsuit alleges.
A statement from Mr TerVeer’s attorneys said that their client: “continues to suffer the emotional and financial stress caused by the Library of Congress’ actions toward him and looks forward not only to obtaining justice for himself, but also to helping prevent similar treatment of other government employees.”
Mr TerVeer claims that before Mr Mech discovered he was gay, they shared a friendly relationship. He was even on friendly terms with Mr Mech’s family, becoming Facebook friends with his daughter Katie, back in early 2009.
Mr TerVeer’s attorney said: “Unbeknownst to TerVeer, Facebook had altered its privacy settings, which provided TerVeer’s Facebook ‘friends’ access to pages that he indicated he ‘liked’.
“One of the pages was TwoDads.us, which offers support for gay parents. Katie Mech posted, ‘Don’t tell me you’re weird like that!’ to which TerVeer responded offline that he was gay, but not ‘weird’. She terminated their Facebook connection.”
Soon after, John Mech would allegedly engage in religious lectures and confronted Mr TerVeer in a meeting, for the purpose of “educating” his employee “on hell and that it is a sin to be a homosexual.”
The lawsuit said Mr TerVeer was subject to a hostile work environment and eventually required medical assistance, counselling and paid sick leave.
The Library of Congress has since issued a statement denying Mr TerVeer’s claims of discrimination.
Speaking to the Washington Blade, Library of Congress spokesperson Gale Osterberg said the library had no immediate comment on the lawsuit. She said their official response would come in the form of a legal brief filed in court that addresses each of the allegations made.
Under court rules, the Library of Congress has 60 days to file its response from the time Mr TerVeer’s attorneys serve the library with an official copy of the lawsuit.
The suit calls for injunctive relief, including reinstatement and an “order restraining defendant from engaging in further discriminatory conduct…”
The Blade said that the lawsuit “calls for back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, including for emotional distress, and reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and other court related costs. The suit doesn’t seek a specific dollar amount for damages and compensation and other costs, saying the amounts would be determined at trial.”