May 26, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 21
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Former employee sues Qwest Communications due to harassment based on sexual orientation
Former employee sues Qwest Communications due to harassment based on sexual orientation
'This is a wake-up call for employers: their policies aren't worth the paper they're written on if they're not enforced.'

DENVER, CO., May 23, 2006 - In court papers made public today, Lambda Legal has entered a lawsuit filed by The Center's Legal initiative Project (CLIP) in the District Court of Denver County, Colorado, against Qwest Communications on behalf of a former employee who had to leave his job because he experienced severe harassment by his coworkers because he is Gay.

"This is a wake-up call for employers: their policies aren't worth the paper they're written on if they're not enforced," said Ken Upton, Senior Staff Attorney based in Lambda Legal's South Central Regional Office in Dallas. "When workers are not abiding by a company's antiharassment policies, management has to step-up to the plate and make it clear that a harassment-free workplace is part of the core values of the company and take actions accordingly - Qwest Communications did not do this."

Lambda Legal and CLIP represent Donald Moreau, a 46 year-old Gay man who began working for Qwest in 1999 as a customer service representative. In 2001, Qwest transferred Mr. Moreau to another department where Mr. Moreau almost immediately began suffering from antiGay verbal attacks. Despite being called "faggot" by his coworkers and receiving antiGay pamphlets left on his desk, Mr. Moreau received accolades from his supervisors in each of his performance reviews.

"Don Moreau has been patiently working with Qwest over a number of years, hoping that they would do the right thing and walk the walk they put forward in their harassment-free workplace policies," said John C. Hummel, CLIP Legal Director. "Employees are entitled to a workplace where they are free to do their job unhindered by extreme hostility."

As the harassment progressed, Mr. Moreau reported the situation to Qwest management who did nothing to stop the harassment or ease the hostile working environment. After years of coworker mistreatment and failure of Qwest management to provide any effective remedy for the hostile work conditions that he continued to experience, Mr. Moreau filed a claim against Qwest with the Denver Anti-Discrimination Office (DADO), the body that enforces the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. After a fact-finding conference, DADO determined that Mr. Moreau's workplace was hostile and that the entire work group needed training on sexual orientation harassment. A year later, after Qwest failed to act on DADO's recommendations to create a safe working environment, Mr. Moreau was forced to leave his job.

"I did everything a good employee is supposed to do - I showed up to work on time, did my job well and received praise from my supervisors even though I was constantly subjected to extreme verbal attacks by my coworkers," said Donald Moreau. "I acted professionally and Qwest had policies in place to protect me, but they chose not to."

Lambda Legal and CLIP filed a revised complaint against Qwest on May 8, 2006, but had not publicized it until today in an effort to reach a settlement agreement with Qwest.

In a wide-ranging workplace fairness survey of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community released last month by Lambda Legal and conducted with Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP, 54 percent of respondents said that Gay friendly nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies were 'critical' to their decision about where they decide to work. Additionally, 92 percent reported that Gay-friendly policies contributed to their happiness at their workplace.

Ken Upton, Lambda Legal Senior Staff Attorney is handling the case with co-counsel John C. Hummel of The Center's Legal Initiative Project (CLIP) of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of Colorado.

The case is Moreau v. Qwest Communications, Inc.

A Lambda Legal press release

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