09/28/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Claudionor Fernando Sampaio was fired because he is gay. That is what the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center or LAS-ELC and Rukin Hyland Doria & Tindall LLP claim in the lawsuit that they have filed upon his behalf in Alameda County Superior Court. The suit alleges that Seaside Refrigerated Transport, Inc. fired Sampaio after he inquired whether or not the company provided coverage for same-sex domestic partners, which it did not. This occurred in mid-2008. He started working for the company in 2007.
Soon after, the inquiry, his co-workers and supervisors began making frequent derogatory statements including calling Fernando Sampaio by the name Fernanda, and saying things like “God hates fags,” and “the definition of nobody is being FNF (fag, nigger and foreigner). Sampaio is Black, gay and an immigrant. One manager refused to allow Sampaio to use the office restroom for “fear that he would contaminate it”, and when he did use the other restroom, his co-workers would harass him by pounding on the bathroom door.
On 20 October 2008, Sampaio came to work with a “No on Prop 8″ poster in his truck. Other vehicles in the parking lot had “Yes on Prop 8″ posters and Sampaio wanted to express his view on the subject. The president of the company stated in Sampaio’s presence “I will not permit gays to work here because they contaminate us with their lifestyle. I have a way of getting that out of my parking lot.” The next day, his truck was keyed, and the day after that, he was fired.
According to Sampaio
Said Mr. Sampaio, “I worked hard every day and treated everyone around me with kindness and respect, I just wanted to be part of the team.” Instead of being provided the opportunity to contribute to the company in a comfortable work environment, Sampaio noted, he experienced incessant teasing and taunts about being a gay man.
“All individuals deserve to be treated with value and allowed to maintain their dignity in the workplace,” said Tamika Butler, attorney at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center. “Mr. Sampaio’s experience of facing constant ridicule and taunting should not be tolerated; we stand with Mr. Sampaio as he fights for justice and equal treatment under the law.” Butler, who is representing Mr. Sampaio, added, “Many people believe that in a state like California, gay and lesbian individuals no longer face challenges on the job. This situation is a blatant and all too common demonstration that there is still work to be done.”
Angela Perone, one of the attorneys representing Sampaio, stated
“According to a Williams Institute study, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing receives an average of 605 sexual orientation employment related discrimination complaints each year. Many of these gay and lesbian employees believe they were terminated, faced verbal or physical abuse, or had their workplace vandalized as a result of the discrimination. Such discriminatory conduct creates an unnecessary obstacle for hardworking employees like Mr. Sampaio who are struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy. In the face of this harsh reality for gay and lesbian workers, it is important to continue working to enforce workplace nondiscrimination laws.”
Across the country, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transpeople are constantly harassed on the job and even fired for their sexual orientation and gender identity. Without the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect LGBT Americans, it will remain possible that companies will fire employees for a so-called lifestyle which is no more a choice than breathing.