Judge: lawsuit by gay
can proceed against
By SAMUEL MAULL, AP
Newsday.com from the Web, November 18, 2005
NEW YORK -- A Salvation Army
social worker can proceed with a discrimination lawsuit in which he claims his
supervisor harassed him because he is gay and Jewish and then fired him when he
complained, a Manhattan judge has ruled.
State Supreme Court Justice Richard F. Braun denied the Salvation Army's motion
to dismiss the lawsuit filed by caseworker Zachary Logan. The Army's
lawyers argued that because theirs is a religious organization, it is exempt
from religious bias claims.
Braun disagreed. He said the Court of Appeals, the state's highest, has
ruled that "religious organizations, just like other employers, may not
discriminate unlawfully against their employees."
The judge said Logan complained that Michelle Pallak, his supervisor, "acted
hostilely toward him because of his sexual orientation and religious background.
She undermined him in his job performance and treated him differently than she
did heterosexual employees."
Logan, who lives in Astoria, Queens, also says in court papers that Pallak
called him offensive names related to his sexual orientation and remarked to
colleagues after he was fired that she hoped he "did not play the gay card."
"If the allegations made by plaintiff are true, he should be compensated for
defendant's bad acts," the judge wrote. "This action will go forward."
Braun said state and city law do allow religious groups to give employment
preference to persons of the same religion as the organization, and to promote
the religious principles of the organization.
"However," the judge said, "those limited exemptions for religious organizations
are a far cry from letting them harass their employees and treat the employees
in an odiously discriminatory manner during their employment, and to use
derogatory expressions toward the employees."
Logan, who counseled World Trade Center attack survivors, worked for the
Salvation Army from October 2001 until he was fired Jan. 11, 2002, court papers
Cindy Molloy, lawyer for the Salvation Army, noted that Braun did not rule on
the truth of Logan's complaint, just that it could go to trial.
Molloy said, "We're considering our next step. Justice Braun has a very
narrow construction of the religious organization exemption. We are not
sure yet whether we will appeal."
Molloy also issued a statement by Major Guy Klemanski, general secretary of the
Salvation Army's Greater New York Divisional Headquarters:
"The Salvation Army vigorously denies the allegations, abhors the type of
conduct that is alleged to have occurred and does not condone harassment as
alleged by (Logan)."
Logan's lawyer, Marc Susswein, said he was pleased that Braun found that
religious organizations are bound by the same rules as other employers and will
be held accountable for unlawful discrimination.