George Gorham, a former gay employee of the Devereux Foundation, has filed a lawsuit against the Behavioral Health Agency for alleged unlawful dismissal due to his sexual orientation.
Devereux is a behavioral health agency based in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Gorham worked at a Devereux service center in West Chester, Pennsylvania, according to court documents.
Gorham of Smyrna, Delaware, filed a lawsuit against Devereux in federal court last month.
The 12-page lawsuit alleges that Devereux violated state and federal antibias laws in firing Gorham.
Gorham identifies as a gay man. He began working at the nonprofit as a “Direct Support Professional” in August 2019, according to the lawsuit.
After this happened, Gorham noticed that his direct supervisor would avoid talking to him, although the supervisor would talk to other employees who were not known to be gay, according to the lawsuit.
Gorham also noted that when he approached the supervisor to talk to him — which was often necessary as part of his work — the supervisor quickly walked away to avoid talking to him, according to the lawsuit.
If Gorham walked past the supervisor during the workday, the supervisor would turn in the opposite direction to avoid contact with him, according to the complaint.
Despite this alleged behavior of the supervisor, Gorham fulfilled his work duties without “problem,” according to the lawsuit.
In November 2019, Gorham was approached by a non-LGBT colleague who informed Gorham that “people” were inquiring about his sexual orientation, according to the lawsuit.
Gorham does not know whether the colleague was referring to Devereux’s customers or employees, according to the lawsuit.
On November 27, 2019, about a week after Gorham’s conversation with the non-LGBT colleague, Gorham’s employment at Devereux was terminated, according to the lawsuit.
“[Devereux] claimed that [Gorham[ was terminated for violating [Devereux] cell phone policies and/or arguing with a police officer,” the lawsuit continues. “[Devereux], however, did not follow their progressive disciplinary policy, as [Gorham] was not given any counseling, written warning, or final warning prior to termination.”
Other Devereux employees who are not openly gay received several letters when they violated Devereux’s cell phone policy but were not fired, according to the lawsuit.
After his dismissal, a Devereux manager reportedly told Gorham, “This is not the first time something like this has happened.” In addition, the manager is said to have advised Gorham to sue Devereux, according to the lawsuit.
Gorham is seeking more than $150,000 in damages from Devereux for economic losses, as well as emotional distress and psychological distress. He also asks Devereux to be responsible for the fees and costs of his lawyers, according to the lawsuit.
His allegations against Devereux include unlawful dismissal, hostile work environment, harassment and retaliation, according to the lawsuit.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Gene E.K. Pratter of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A jury trial was requested.
A spokesperson for Devereux issued the following statement: “These claims are in complete contradiction to Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s long-standing commitment and reputation for advocacy and support for the entire LGBTQ community. In fact, over the past decade, we’ve taken on the role of an outspoken LGBTQ advocate committed to raising standards of inclusivity and respect across all of our service areas, programs, and offerings. To learn more about our commitment to eliminating discrimination and supporting the LGBTQ community, please visit our website. Our detailed response will be available in November.”
Gorham’s lawyers had no comment on this story.