News (USA)

“Hero” librarian says bigoted supervisor harassed & fired him for being gay

Jeffrey Machno Photo: YouTube screenshot

A New Jersey library assistant says he was subjected to harassment, discrimination, and retaliation based on his sexual orientation. He has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Though recognized as a “community hero” by many in Secaucus, New Jersey — including by Mayor Michael Gonnelli —for his work with the Secaucus Public Library and Business Resource Center since 2020, Jeffrey Machno says that in the summer of 2022, a supervisor told him that she found his “gay lifestyle” unacceptable, reports.

“It’s not like I’m parading around with a flag,” Machno told the outlet. “It was very uncomfortable.”

Machno claims he was excluded from work events by the same supervisor after he complained about her comment. After serving as the emcee for the 2021 Secaucus Got Talent competition, Machno says he was not asked to participate in its 2022 event.

In an email to Gonnelli, one woman wrote that when attendees of the event asked why Machno was not hosting the 2022 edition, they were told by a library employee that “his lifestyle was not appropriate for the town.”

In October of last year, Machno asked to meet with the vice president of the library board of trustees to discuss the “uncomfortable, palpably curt, and unprofessional behavior” of his supervisors. “I have been treated unfairly and aggressively,” Machno wrote in an email.

In Machno’s EEOC complaint against the Secaucus Public Library this past December, he says he was fired three days after sending the email.

“It’s just flat out not right,” Machno told “I’m not one to take up a cause, I’m busy enough. But, at the same time, this was just not right. There is nothing appropriate about this.”

Gonnelli said that he was upset when he learned of Machno’s termination after the fact. “I’m still upset by it,” he said. “It’s a library board that’s appointed by me, and they did something without telling me ahead of time.”

Machno’s ordeal comes amid a rising tide of anti-LGBTQ+ animus that has targeted local school boards, teachers, and public libraries across the United States. Fueled by misinformation on social media and demagoguery from Republican politicians, local libraries and school districts are fielding bad-faith challenges to books dealing with LGBTQ+ topics, while state lawmakers have introduced bills similar to Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law. Critics say such laws threaten to drive LGBTQ+ teachers back into the closet or out of the education system altogether.

Now working part-time at another library, Machno says his experience at Secaucus Public Library has left him fearful of future discrimination. “In some ways, I feel like I’m in high school again. Like I can’t say I’m gay,” he said. “It’s almost set me back.”

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