Last week, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (KCHFS) unfairly dismissed a male employee because he was gay.
In 2009, Milton Stroder was terminated as an adjudicator with the KCHFS for violating policy by sending out personal emails that discussed his partner and used gay-slang terms like “princess” and “queen.”
But as Stroder’s attorney successfully argued, a heterosexual female employee who sent out similarly personal emails was not punished so severely.
“This is unfair and unequal treatment,” [Judge] Heyburn wrote in the nine-page ruling issued last week.
Heyburn noted that the cabinet didn’t take action against Shannon Duncan, who also sent personal emails around the same period, as well as a chain letter to other employees titled “Pampered Chef,” which showed naked men with pots and pans “strategically placed to conceal their genitals.”
Though Duncan and Stroder started the same day and held the same job, Stroder was fired a few days before his probationary period was over—allowing him to be terminated “without a reason or a right to a hearing,” reports the AP.
Duncan, however, wasn’t reprimanded until several days later, by which time she had become a full-time employee and wasn’t subject to termination for such an infraction.
Sure, you could think it was all just a coincidence and that Stroder’s bosses just didn’t like his work. But when KCHFS began enforcing its Internet policy, “friendly homosexual bantering within emails” was targeted disproportionately. Heyburn noted in his decision that, of the first five people reprimanded for violating the email ban, four were gay.
Stroder, who now works as an AIDS/HIV case manager, has until May 15 to either file sanctions or request his job be reinstated. A spokesperson for KCHFS says the agency is considering an appeal.