His Coworkers Were Discriminating Against His Foster Parenting
A gay employee of the South Jersey School District is suing his workplace after several coworkers and employees discriminated against him for fostering children.
At a first glance, Joseph Longo III’s suit against the school district might look fairly simple. When you hear that he’s suing because his coworkers made comments about his fostering children like “just get another pet” or “find a woman,” you might think there needs to be more for the discrimination case to stick. But, it seems the discrimination went further than just petty comments.
While the school district’s attorney’s call Longo’s case “frivolous, unreasonable, [and] groundless,” his accusations carry a lot of weight to them.
Longo, who works as a social worker with the district, says the harassment started around September 2016. That’s when Longo told Pamela Bates-Thomas, the director of special services, that he was taking classes to become a foster parent.
This then led to Bates-Thomas and another coworker, Dale Garner, making comments like, “You don’t need foster kids, you need to find a woman and have kids with a woman” and “You don’t need kids, just get another pet.”
In addition, the news spread and several other coworkers, Dr. Billy Slaughter, school psychologist; Dr. Amiot Patrick Michel, superintendent, and Robin Winrow in human resources, added their own homophobic comments.
For instance, the lawsuit mentions a time in May of 2017 when Slaughter found out two foster children left Longo’s house, “I hope you learned your lesson, you don’t need any children.”
The biggest offense happened when Longo tried to take a new foster child to the doctor. Longo tried to claim the day as a family personal day, but Bates-Thomas wouldn’t allow it. She said that Longo wasn’t “a real parent,” and told him to not only claim it as a sick day but to “choose between being a foster parent and his career.”
“That same day, at Michel’s request, Longo gave a copy of his guardianship papers to Michel, Bates-Thomas and Winrow.
The suit alleges Michel began to ask Longo “invasive and harassing questions” including whether he intended to adopt his foster child and if he was being paid to care for the child.
Michel allegedly told Longo, the suit says, Longo he was not a “real parent” if he was paid to take care of a foster child.”
The lawsuit is just ongoing as it was filed on February 9 in Superior Court under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Longo hopes for a jury trial for the suit, as well as punitive and compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.
That said, the district’s attorneys deny Longo’s accusations, and they want him to pay for their court costs and attorney fees.