A gay man has charged in a discrimination complaint that he was fired last week from his job at the Library of Congress after being harassed and humiliated for more than a year by a supervisor who repeatedly cited passages from the Bible condemning homosexuality.
Peter TerVeer, 30, a management analyst at the Library of Congress’s Office of the Inspector General since 2008, says in his complaint that supervisor John R. Mech created a hostile work environment for him to such a degree that he suffered severe stress, forcing him to take disability leave last fall and earlier this year.
“I contend that I have been subjected to a hostile work environment by Mr. Mech since August 2009 on the basis of my sex (male), sexual orientation (homosexual), and religion (non-denominational Christian/Agnostic),” TerVeer states in an affidavit accompanying his complaint.
“I maintain that Mr. Mech has acted to impose his religious beliefs on me,” TerVeer says in the affidavit.
TerVeer’s attorney, Thomas Simeone, said he will likely file a discrimination related lawsuit against the library on TerVeer’s behalf regardless of how the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is deliberating over the complaint, rules on the matter.
Gayle Osterberg, director of communications for the Library of Congress, said TerVeer’s complaint is considered a personnel matter and the library never comments on personnel-related issues pertaining to an individual employee.
She said that under library rules, neither John Mech, an accountant and lead auditor for the library’s Office of The Inspector General, nor any other library employee familiar with TerVeer’s case would be permitted to comment on the case.
Simeone said a key factor in the case is that library officials promoted TerVeer three times and praised his work and that negative job performance reviews suddenly began after Mech learned TerVeer was gay.
Asked about a policy adopted by the Library of Congress in the 1990s prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, Osterberg declined to confirm whether such a policy is still in effect.
“We adhere to Title 7, period,” she said, referring to a provision in existing U.S. civil rights law that bans job discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex and other criteria but not on sexual orientation.
An internal “Librarian’s Policy Statement Regarding Non-Discrimination” issued to Library of Congress Employees on May 6, 2010, reiterates the 1990s-era statement pertaining to sexual orientation discrimination.
“Discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment), national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or political affiliation will not be tolerated,” the statement says.
Osterberg declined to disclose whether that and previous sexual orientation non-discrimination statements were still in effect.
TerVeer’s complaint, filed with the EEOC, follows a September 2008 federal court decision finding that the Library of Congress violated federal law against sex discrimination by denying a job to a transgender woman.
In that case, the library had determined that the applicant was qualified and hired her shortly before she announced she was transitioning from male to female. When officials learned that David Schroer was transitioning to Diane Schroer they rescinded the job offer and refused to hire Schroer.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled in September 2008 that the library’s refusal to hire Schroer violated a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination, a development hailed by the ACLU as an important breakthrough for transgender rights. The library decided against appealing the case and agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Diane Schroer in which it paid her compensatory damages.
Filed under: Newsmakers