October 20, 2011 at 4:09 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Security guard says company suspended him for being gay

Robert Miller

Robert Miller claims that CSI Corporation discriminated against him because he’s gay while working as a security guard at the DNC headquarters. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A guard working for a company that provides security services for the Democratic National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill says the company suspended him after another guard learned that he’s gay and expressed reluctance to work with him.

Robert Miller, 32, a D.C. resident, says he’s filing a discrimination complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights against CSI Corporation of D.C., a private contracting firm that provides security guards for many prominent buildings in the city, including the DNC headquarters and the Washington Convention Center.

“I’m a gay man and he says he’s uncomfortable working with me,” Miller said of fellow security guard Julius Crumlin.

Crumlin declined to comment when contacted by the Blade. Officials with the Silver Spring, Md., based CSI Corporation did not return repeated calls.

City records show that CSI Corporation of D.C. listed a D.C. address to obtain certification in 2009 as a small, local business enterprise eligible for special preference for D.C. government contracts.

But the management company for the office building that CSI listed for its address at 7600 Georgia Ave., N.W., told the Blade CSI moved out of the first floor office it rented in that building last month.

A spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development couldn’t be immediately reached to determine whether CSI was in violation of its contract preference status by moving out of the city. The DSLBD regulates the city’s small and minority business contracting preference program, which is restricted to companies whose “principal” location is in D.C.

Miller said he and Crumlin had a cordial working relationship for nearly a year and sometimes had dinner together while on break at the DNC building. He said Crumlin became hostile after discovering in a desk drawer at the DNC building a personal letter that Miller said he wrote to his cousin about his romantic feelings toward another man.

Miller says he thinks Crumlin thought the flowery language he used to describe his feelings in the letter were directed at Crumlin.

“He had no business going through my personal things in that desk drawer,” said Miller. “That letter had nothing to do with him, but he took it the wrong way.”

Crumlin responded by writing his own letter to a CSI Corporation supervisor accusing Miller of sexually harassing him on the job, Miller told the Blade. On Aug. 30, the supervisor called Miller to a meeting at CSI’s office in Silver Spring and confronted him with Crumlin’s complaint.

Miller said he tried his best to explain that Crumlin was not the subject of the letter in question. But he said the supervisor and at least one other CSI official told him the company wanted to investigate the matter. Miller said the supervisor, whom he knows only as Mr. Covington, told him to go home that day and to not return to work until contacted by the company.

“They never called,” Miller said. “I kept calling them but they didn’t answer. They didn’t return my calls.”

After three weeks of not knowing his job status and not being paid, Miller said a company official called him and informed him that he was being transferred to another building on an interim basis while the company continued its investigation into the matter.

Miller’s reinstatement came a short time after the Blade began making calls to the company and to the DNC to inquire about Miller’s status and the circumstances that led to his suspension.

DNC spokesperson Melanie Roussell said the DNC didn’t learn about Miller’s suspension until contacted by the Blade.

“The DNC does not exercise authority over or make hiring, firing or suspension decisions regarding any of the security guards working at DNC facilities, as they are employed by an independent contractor,” Roussell said in a statement.

“Nevertheless, we are taking these allegations very seriously and will do everything within our power to investigate this matter to the fullest extent possible, and resolve it accordingly,” she said. “The DNC has an absolutely resolute policy of commitment to diversity among its staff, and recognizes that our continued success requires the highest commitment to obtaining and retaining a diverse staff that provides the best services to supporters and constituents.”

Roussell added that the DNC is an equal opportunity employer that hires a diverse staff without regard to a wide range factors such as race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Miller said he quickly learned that the pay scale at the building to which he was transferred is lower than what it was at the DNC building. According to Miller, he’s now being paid $11 per hour at the Fairchild Building located across South Capitol Street from the DNC headquarters. He had been paid $16 per hour at the DNC building.

Miller gave the Blade a copy of his hand-written responses on an intake questionnaire he obtained from the D.C. Office of Human Rights, which serves as the first step for filing a discrimination complaint against an employer.

A spokesperson for the OHR said the office uses the questionnaire responses — along with an interview with the person making the complaint — as the basis for determining whether grounds exist for a formal complaint, which the office would then investigate.

The spokesperson, Tonya Gonzalez, said the OHR doesn’t publicly disclose or comment on a complaint unless and until the investigation results in a finding of probable cause that discrimination occurred. She said it could take several months before such a determination is made.

Gonzalez said anyone filing a discrimination complaint is free to publicly disclose the fact that they have filed such a complaint, even though the OHR cannot comment on it or acknowledge that it has been filed.

CSI describes itself on its website as “a minority owned firm, certified as a Local Small Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (LSDBE)” with a pending certification from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

City records show that the company listed its headquarters in D.C. in an office at a building at 7600 Georgia Ave., N.W. However, a reporter visiting the office building last week found a vacant office suite with the CSI Corporation name on a locked door. A staff member with Capitol Realty Management Group, which manages the office building, said CSI Corporation had just moved out of the building and the office suite was being listed as being available for rent at $2,100 per month.

Miller said he and other security guards he worked with only had dealings with the company’s Silver Spring office, located on the seventh floor of a building at 1320 Fenwick Lane.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

1 Comment
  • Mr. Miller comments “…He had no business going through my personal things in that desk drawer…” And, that’s where he erred. The desk drawer is NOT Mr. Miller’s personal property. The letter should have more properly been in Mr. Miller’s possession at all times. Mr. Miller should have exercised better judgment by not housing the letter in a work/public area, regardless of the intended recipient or how “private” he assumed his possessionis in the desk to be. Another case of errors in personal accountability and judgment.

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