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Ex-Gym Teacher Sues School: Was He Fired for Being Straight?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on December 19, 2013 2:07 PM

A Manhattan gym teacher filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against a swanky Upper West Side private school, claiming that he was fired for being straight, being married, and having children. Although "Lesbian boss 'fired me for being straight'" makes for a juicy Page Six headline, this case is likely more about him having familial obligations than being straight.

But for argument's sake, let's assume that's what happened. Can you be legally fired for being straight?

Employment Discrimination

Gregory Kenney, a 50-year-old ex-gym teacher at the posh Trinity School, asserts that the lesbian school athletic director, Pat Krieger, gave preferential treatment to "single, younger females without children and discriminated against [him] because of his gender, sexual orientation, 'traditional family status,' and age," reports Gothamist.

Kenney's employment discrimination claims based on gender and age are pretty standard. Though many may not realize it, his sexual orientation claim isn't a big deal, either. Is that totally racking your heteronormative brain?

Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act

New York has long prohibited discrimination on the basis of certain characteristics, such as race, sex, and religion. In 2002, New York enacted the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act to add sexual orientation to the list of specifically protected characteristics.

Though laws on the federal level are lagging, SONDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment as well as housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights.

If you think "sexual orientation" only refers to gays and lesbians, think again. SONDA defines sexual orientation as "heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or asexuality, whether actual or perceived." From professors to fashion industry folk, every so often, employees claim they were discriminated against because they're heterosexual.

It's not clear whether Kenney was fired because of his orientation. Krieger, who started working as Trinity's athletic director in 2009, reportedly claims Kenney was fired because he illegally sublet the apartment the school gave him and that he left his students unsupervised. Kenney, meanwhile, alleges it was just because of who he was: a straight "nuclear family" kinda guy in his 50s.

Sudden realization: This could make for a super sad "Glee" episode.

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