Society

Gay Staff Too Costly for Home Depot, Ex-Employee Says

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Home Depot targeted gay male workers for firing to cut costs in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, one ex-employee says.

Hardy Housh, also known as Lex Housh, sued Home Depot in Orange County Superior Court, seeking $100,000 for discrimination, sexual harassment and other counts, Court House News reports.

Housh says Home Depot came up with a plan to lay off older higher paid managers and gay employees in order to reduce its payroll in response to the financial collapse in 2008.

Housh was 57 years old when he was fired in February 2012 and had worked for the home improvement chain for 25 years.

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“Home Depot was concerned with ‘gay male’ employees because of its perception that it would pay more medical benefits associated with HIV and AIDS viruses,” Housh says in the 70-page lawsuit. “Also, Home Depot was concerned that it would have to pay costs associated with ‘gay partners.’ As of Jan. 1, 2012, Home Depot California made a decision to terminate all ‘gay’ employees because of the California Domestic Relationship Act. That legislation required employers to provide benefits to ‘partners.’”

Aside from the wrongful termination, Housh claims Home Depot managers harassed him to force him out of the company. He recalls one incident in 2011 in which defendant Rudy Peralta, a manager of a San Diego Home Depot store, emailed him explicit pictures.

“The pictures included a large penis protruding from an uncooked turkey’s stuffing hole, an African American posing in women’s lingerie with his penis showing, the picture of a naked child with a man’s head photo shopped onto the child’s head, and the picture of a man’s rear end with a large X over the same,” according to the lawsuit.

Housh kept his sexuality a secret, however, claims that managers found out about his sexual orientation in 2011 and the harassment increased. He registered his domestic partnership in 2011.

The lawsuit claims that defendant district manager Jeff Grooms “tormented plaintiff by use of wrongful discipline,” such as false write-ups that were backdated, “ridicule during walkthroughs, outward physical conduct,” such as ignoring the plaintiff’s suggestions, and “making improper sexual gestures with his hands and body when plaintiff was near him.”

Home Depot was ranked as one of the best companies in the country this year when it comes to health benefits to lesbian and gay domestic partners, according to the New York Daily News.

In the lawsuit, Housh names Home Depot USA, Home Depot California, managers Peralta and Grooms and a third manager, Bernard Powers, as defendants.

Sources: Court City News, New York Daily News