LA-area coach claims wrongful termination for Facebook photos

A gay high school assistant water polo coach is suing the Charter Oak Unified School District in Covina which fired him last year for some photographs posted on Myspace and Facebook. The former assistant coach alleges wrongful termination and claims that he was discriminated against for being homosexual.

The photographs in question were pictures of the plaintiff wearing eyeliner and surrounded by men wearing bustiers, wigs and makeup. Another picture showed him at the Los Angeles County Fair pretending to take a bite of a corn dog. The controversy began when somebody anonymously dropped off printouts of the pictures from the social media sites.

The plaintiff, who happens to have daughter at the high school and is an alumnus of the institution himself, started working as an assistant coach in May 2011. After guiding his team through an undefeated summer season, he was set to begin work in the fall when he was called to the principal's office about the photos and was fired.

The coach contends that the photographs were harmless and were simply taken for fun. He says he was fired as part of ongoing bias against homosexual employees by the district. The principal of the school has declined to comment on the matter.

Other gay employees working at the school district have apparently reached out to the plaintiff and have told him of their own experiences of discrimination there. One told the plaintiff that the school district discriminated against the plaintiff in particular because he did not attempt to hide his sexual orientation. He suggested that if the plaintiff had not spoken openly about his fiancé he might not have been targeted. Another described an environment of institutionalized discrimination against the gay community.

The district is in Los Angeles County and has previously faced accusations of discriminating against gay employees. In 2003, a gay male teacher alleged discrimination and harassment from an administrator due to his sexual orientation. However, school district officials say an investigation found no evidence to back up the claim.

The man in this case says he doesn't need his coaching job and that his regular career is not in jeopardy because of his sexual orientation. But he says he intends to press his case all the way with the goal of being reinstated so he can remain engaged at the school and close to his daughter.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Gay coach sues Charter Oak Unified, alleging wrongful termination," Corina Knoll, June 3, 2012

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