From the Department Of Fired For Being Gay, which most recently claimed student teacher Seth Stambaugh in Oregon, comes Long Island skydiving instructor Donald Zarda. He was just axed after a female client complained that during their tandem descent from many thousands of feet in the air, he touched her in a no-no-way.
For telling his elementary students he’s gay, Stambaugh was informed his comments were “inappropriate.” For telling the skydiving client (identified only as Rosanna) he’s gay, Zarda was accused of “inappropriate behavior.”
Donald Zarda was strapped tightly to the woman, identified only as Rosanna, as they floated to earth in a tandem jump June 18, when he told her, “Don’t worry, I’m gay.” Rosanna complained to his then-boss at Skydive Long Island in Calverton, Ray Maynard. Zarda says Maynard accused him of “inappropriate behavior” and also said he had touched the student “in a way that made her uncomfortable.”
But the skydiver scoffs at the allegation he had fondled the woman. “I’m 100 percent gay,” Zarda told The Post. “So, you’re accusing me — the gay guy — of touching the girl inappropriately? The situation is so bizarre.” He claims all the instructors routinely joke with customers about the awkwardness of a stranger being strapped to their backs, including raunchy sexual references.
Now Zarda, who says his ex-boss Maynard won’t let him review the tapes of their jump (that’s what discovery is for!), can’t get a gig at another skydiving company because of the complaint. Except Maynard’s attorney says Zarda’s sexuality wasn’t why he was fired; “He was terminated for inappropriate behavior in the workplace” and there was “more than one single incident” that resulted in his ouster.
If Zarda made completely offensive remarks to his client? Or unnecessarily groped Rosanna? Fine, fire him. But having been skydiving before, strapped to the front of a brawny fella, I know first-hand some innocent sexual humor lightens the mood. And I also know being securely fastened to the guy who knows what he’s doing (i.e. opening the chute, steering us to safety) helps ensure I survive the fall.
[photo via Facebook]
And, this is why we need ENDA, though I’ve long-since wondered what is to protect us, in spite of ENDA, should an employer lie or contrive other reasons for dismissing an employee?!
They should be investigating the student not the instructor…
Not to worry though, the thing about enforcement in the workplace is that it must be consistent and be supported by a paper-trail of documentation. Without that, you’re askin’ for a lawsuit and I suspect that’s just what this company will get.
And… although I’m sure it goes w/o saying, I’d strap THAT guy on in a heartbeat!
Queerty if you want more on this story, contact me, Don’s attorney.
Just because he’s gay it doesn’t mean the woman couldn’t be unconfortable with the touching.
well of course he is touching her. she is strapped onto his torso. Hence she is touching him too.
This is unreal like the story coming out of Oregon. Heteros are out of control!!
Anyone going into skydiving knows it’s uncomfortable. She shouldn’t have been skydiving for chrisakes. You’re on top of each other and of course there’s going to be inappropriate touching. It’s skydiving!
Sounds like the student, Rosanna, is a whack job. I’d love to hear what she has to say.
Come on Queerty, do some good online journalism and contact Zarda’s attorney.
Someone was strapped to that man’s torso and was complaining about it?
Rosanna could have chosen to try skydiving solo; I did it, it’s through the use of a static line attached to the inside of the plane that deploys the chute about two seconds or so after one lets go of the wing strut.
Also ENDA probably wouldn’t protect this instructor at all. ENDA I’ve been told, only covers employees who work for employers with 50 or more employees. I highly doubt a recreational skydiving operation has anywhere close to that, just like most of my employers in the past were too small to make that high bar. ENDA is also very weak in another area too: working for religious organizations. ENDA needs done-over and enhanced to cover most people and employment situations. There are too many loopholes for the employers to exploit.
Well gee. It only takes one customer complaint to get fired at most any company. The instructor’s sexuality is not much of a defense. The employer and employee need to come to some sort of happy conclusion. Burning bridges, and lawsuits – even won, never helps when looking for other employment. Use a little common sense in thinking this one through.
@Gregory Antollino: Why don’t you contact Queerty? As reported here, your client doesn’t have much of a case, or perhaps a story either.
@Gregory Antollino: What’s his Don’s phone number? He’s hot 🙂
Mr. Enemabag Jones
What utter bullshit.
Years ago when I spent less than a year working in an office enviroment, (before quitting and starting my own business,) I had a woman file a sexual harrassment complaint against me. Apparently I passed her over for promotion because she rebuffed my “advances”. The boss–who knew I was gay–called me in to her office and laid out the facts, then dismissed Ms. Thing’s claim. The next day Ms. Thing filed a second grievence, claiming I passed her over for promotion because she was straight.
You can’t win with people who are unhinged, as Ms. Rosanna clearly is
Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"
Okay, I’m not trying to be an asshole, but, if the instructor is the guy in the photo (Queerty regularly posts unrelated photo, so its a fair question), well, damn, case or no case, I don’t think he’ll be out of work for long, cause, well, damn….
she was obviously stressed….he’s nice…problably just worried about her…nice payback manhater!!!!
@Mr. Enemabag Jones: Very true. In this sense, the customer is always right, provided they are paying you money and/or not costing you money.
women file the majority of complaints against gays in the workplace…nice..
I seriously doubt that the instructor was actually touching her inappropriately… suffice it to say, double-skydiving requires people to be close.
I suspect he made the joke to “relieve” her concerns about being close to a man, perhaps other than her husband, and instead “inflamed” her prejudice about being close to a f*gg&t.
For the record, we DON’T often appreciate having to associate with the likes of YOU, either.
He’s a sexy bugger. Must have been some big old lezzer.
well he can feel me up!
Jack E. Jett
What happens in the air, stays in the air.
From the article: “But having been skydiving before, strapped to the front of a brawny fella, I know first-hand some innocent sexual humor lightens the mood.”
Well, that’s the author’s experience, and that’s totally valid. But not everyone responds to sexual humor by feeling that their mood is lightened. Some people get MORE uncomfortable! It’s unreasonable, I think, to expect that everyone will be OK with sexual jokes when they are in an uncomfortable situation, and that it’s a mandatory part of a tandem skydiving experience.
Maybe a better thing to say to a customer to put them at ease would be, “Don’t worry, I’m a professional and I’m going to treat you with respect”, rather than, “Don’t worry, I’m gay.”
Maybe Rosanna was just being a bitch, she probably was, but maybe she really WAS uncomfortable and just hearing that he’s gay isn’t always going to be enough to ease your mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not. If the touching was ‘inappropriate’, thinking you can get a free pass just because you’re not sexually interested in her isn’t cool. A woman probably doesn’t want another woman groping her either and she shouldn’t have to just put up with it…but again, she was probably just being a bitch.
It sucks that he lost his job but this was kind of a lose/lose situation for his boss, wasn’t it? He was probably risking a lawsuit if he didn’t do anything, especially if there’s any truth to his claim that Zarda had done this sort of thing before.
On a personal note, I’m kinda thinking this guy’s just ticked off about being fired. Maybe I’m wrong but I’ve been to Skydive Long Island, I know some of the people that work there pretty well. I don’t think I ever met Zarda but as for the rest of them, I know they’re not homophobic…
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