Management analyst Peter TerVeer is claiming he was fired from his position at the Library of Congress following months of discrimination by his bible-quoting supervisor.
TerVeer, 30, who worked in the LoC’s Office of the Inspector General, claims that John Mech created a hostile work environment by repeatedly stating his religious objections to homosexuality and intentionally giving him assignments Mech knew he’d be unable to complete.
TerVeer has filed a claim with the Equality Opportunity Commission and is considering legal action:
“I contend that I have been subjected to a hostile work environment by Mr. [John] 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.”
After beginning at the Library in 2008, TerVeer received positive reviews, promotions and praise for his work. But that changed in 2009, when Mech, the lead auditor for the Office of the Inspector General, discovered he was gay.
“All of a sudden now, every time I’m going into his office he’s starting off with a religious conversation. Then it comes out where he pointed out he was a believer with a literal translation of the Bible,” said TerVeer. “Then he goes specifically into homosexuality.”
TerVeer says Mech’s brimstone-and-hellfire act kicked into overdrive in June 2010:
“He came into my office on that date and said he wanted to educate me on Hell and that it was a sin to be a homosexual,” TerVeer says in the affidavit. “He said he hoped I repented because the Bible was very clear about what God does to homosexuals.”
Among other things, TerVeer says in the affidavit that Mech quoted the Old Testament passage of Leviticus, stating, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their heads.”
After that encounter, TerVeer says, Mech began piling on work and warned him against filing a discrimination complaint. Mech’s supervisor, Nicholas Christopher, seems to have supported Mech’s campaign against TerVeer, despite the fact that Christopher himself is gay.
TerVeer says the strain of such a hostile work environment forced him, in October 2011, to take a unpaid leave from the Library. But when he didn’t return to his post in January, the Office of the Inspector General declared he was “AWOL” and fired him.
Inspector General Karl W. Schornagel wrote in a letter:
“I considered that you failed to report for duty as scheduled for over 37 consecutive workdays and failed to properly request approved leave despite being reminded of the proper procedures for requesting approved leave and advised of the consequences of your failure to report for duty as scheduled,”
TerVeer’s attorney says his client had wanted to extend the leave, but was financially unable to pay doctors for the necessary examination and documentation. A requested transfer to another department was denied.
Sadly, it’s unclear whether TerVeer’s rights are protected: The Library of Congress adopted a policy banning discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation in the 1990s, but a spokesperson for the institution wouldn’t confirm that the measure is still in effect. Title 7 of the U.S. civil code bans discrimination based on race, religion, gender and ethnicity, but not orientation.
In 2008, a trans woman who had applied for a senior position with the Library won a lawsuit claiming she was passed over for the position because of her gender identity.