A lesbian worker alleging she faced anti-gay job discrimination at a Kentucky bank that led to her termination — including being told she was “too butch” to deal with customers — sued Friday in state court for compensatory and punitive damages.
Penelope Hudson, who filed the lawsuit, worked at the Louisville-based Park Community Credit Union at various locations in Kentucky and Indiana for 15 years until she was terminated in 2016.
According to her complaint, Hudson was “continually subject to harassment, disparate treatment and hostile work environment due to her status as a gay women,” which was witnessed by other employees and customers at the bank.
In a statement, Hudson said she’s “heartbroken” about her termination, adding she loved her job, was good at it and “loved the members that I dealt with every day.”
“I gave my heart and soul to this company, and then I was fired for no other reason than that I am gay,” Hudson said. “That is hard to believe, and I’m filing this case because I want this company to know that this is not OK. I never want any other LGBT person to be treated the way I was treated.”
Among alleged incidents cited in the complaint is being told her appearance was “too butch,” which required her to change her appearance and clothing for her to keep her job. The complaint says Hudson overheard fellow employees discuss her sexual orientation, she was repeatedly passed over for promotions and she was singled out and reprimanded for actions when straight employees did the same things and weren’t punished.
According to the complaint, Hudson on one occasion was attending an event on behalf of her employer at Churchill Downs Racetrack, where she provided tickets and money under the instructions of ensuring other guests have a time. One guest allegedly proceeded to flirt with Hudson, and even after she politely turned him down, he continued, tried to kiss her and asked for her phone number.
Hudson complained to the vice president of human resources, but that person responded, “well we see if the gay thing doesn’t work out, you can also go the other way,” the complaint says.
When Hudson took time off under the Family & Medical Leave Act for invitro treatments, she was asked what her medical condition was after the time was approved, the complaint says. When she told the person asking her she didn’t think she could be asked for information, the person responded the inquiry to ensure “it wasn’t something related to her being gay,” the complaint says.
According to the complaint, at one time, when she sought an explanation from her supervisor on why she wasn’t promoted, the supervisor responded she, the supervisor, doesn’t hate gay people even though her family thinks that’s the case. But Hudson had never stated her supervisor hated gay people and “there was no reason for that to be discussed unless the plaintiff’s perceived sexual orientation was an issue,” the complaint says.
Another incident cited in the complaint is another supervisor having “made the comment more than one time that the plaintiff doesn’t believe in God because she’s gay.” Although Hudson corrected the supervisor’s presumption, the supervisor continued to make it, the complaint says.
Hudson admits to making mistakes over 15 years, the complaint says, but “similar mistakes were made by others, who were not gay of perceived to be gay and they were not terminated for those mistakes.” Hudson was terminated Sept. 29, 2016.
Although Kentucky is among the more than 30 states without explicit protections based on sexual orientation or transgender status, Hudson’s lawsuit seeks restitution under a city ordinance barring anti-gay discrimination as well as state law and Title VII of the Civil Rights of Act. The latter two laws bar discrimination on the basis of sex, and courts have increasingly interpreted sexual-orientation to be a form of sex discrimination.
Representing Hudson in court is Shannon Fauver of the Louisville-based firm Fauver Law Office, who was one of the attorneys representing same-sex couples in the cases that won marriage equality in Kentucky and nationwide.
“What happened to Penelope is wrong – and there is a growing consensus in federal courts, including the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, that this kind of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation is clearly illegal under existing law,” Fauver said. “We’ll keep standing up in the court of law, because no hardworking person should face unfair treatment because of who they are.”
The lawsuit seeks a judgment in Hudson’s favor against the bank for compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable costs and attorney fees and “any and all other relief to which she may be entitled.”
The Washington Blade has placed a request seeking comment on the lawsuit in with BoxcarPR, the public relations representing Park Community Credit Union.