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Gay lawyer sues Miami firm for discrimination

Henrietta Ronson May 1, 2009
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A gay man is suing a law firm for discrimination, claiming he had been passed over for promotion and denied holiday requests.

Daily Business Review reports that Scott Allen Burr is alleging that Miami-based law firm, Astigarraga Davis, discriminated against him due to his sexual orientation.

He has claimed that the firm has previously discriminated against gay employees.

Mr Burr filed the suit in October of last year, which is based on a Miami-Dade County ordinance that protects employees against sexual orientation discrimination.

He worked for the firm from November 2002 to May 2006. He claims that despite the firm having promised that he would be considered for a promotion to equity partner within a year of joining as senior counsel, no such promise materialised.

Instead, he claims that Astigarraga Davis gave him poor performance reviews and refused a request for time off even though the firm was honouring requests from straight attorneys.

Mr Burr’s suit said: “Shortly after his employment began, however, [firm chairman Jose] Astigarraga articulated his discomfort with the fact that plaintiff was gay, criticising the plaintiff for not ‘fitting in’ with the attorneys at the law firm and suggesting to plaintiff that he consider leaving the firm.”

The firm denies these allegations and maintains in a court filing that its leaders were aware of Mr Burr’s sexuality before they hired him, and he quit.

Robert Turk, the firm’s lawyer, claims that Mr Burr’s poor performance reviews were justified and that he sued after unsuccessfully trying to get his job back.

Mr Turk’s motion said: “There are a multitude of material facts with respect to his employment that Mr Burr has failed to disclose that this court should consider … including the fact that when Astigarraga Davis extended him an offer of employment Mr Burr had previously voluntarily disclosed his sexual orientation, that Mr Burr’s employment with Astigarraga Davis was affected only by his unsatisfactory performance and that Burr tendered his letter of resignation at one point.”

Both Mr Burr and the firm have declined to comment.

This is not the first time that Mr Burr has sued a former employer.

In 1993 he anonymously filed a federal suit against the Philadelphia firm Kohn Nast & Graf making claims that he was fired because he is HIV positive.

The case, filed under the Americans With Disabilities Act, was dismissed a year later after Mr Burr settled. He later disclosed his identity to the media.

Related topics: Americas, Employment

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