Tennessee Hotel Employee Fired For Being Gay

Jim Burroway

January 9th, 2009

They say this sort of thing never happens, but here it is. David Hill says he was fired from the Artee Hotel (a former Holiday Inn) in Brentwood, Tennessee, simply for being gay. Not only that, but the owner who fired him dared him to sue:

“They literally said to me because of my orientation and my alternative lifestyle, that I was not a fit for the hotel,” said Hill.

Hill said he used to be the human resources director and is shocked at the owner’s decision to dismiss him because of his sexual preference. “The owner (Tarun Surti) said, ‘I don’t give a damn. They can sue me. I will not have any of the gays in leadership roles in my hotel.’ And that’s a quote,” said Hill.

Assistant general manager, Leonard Stoddard, confirmed Hill’s allegation. He should know, because he said he was the one who had to fire Hill. He spoke with Nashville’s Channel 4 News:

“The owner, Mr. Surti, comes from a culture that is not very tolerant to the gay lifestyle, and therefore he felt it necessary to have him removed from the workforce at the property,” said Stoddard.

“(He was fired) strictly because of his sexual orientation?” asked reporter Katina Rankin.

“I do believe that’s a very fair assumption,” asked [sic] Stoddard.

“Did you agree with his decision?” asked Rankin.

“I did not,” said Stoddard. “It is in our employee handbook that no one should be discriminated against, harassed verbally, physically or any other means for their sexuality, their sexual orientation, gender, race or anything of that sort.”

Meanwhile, it appears the firings didn’t start with Hill, and may not end with him:

Stoddard said Hill’s termination came after Surti received a letter which listed the names of several gay staff members including Hill and Stoddard. That letter was written by a former employee who had been fired for, among other reasons, being gay, Stoddard said.

…Stoddard said Surti fired Hill and told Stoddard he would soon need to find a new employer, as well. Stoddard has worked at the hotel for 10 months. He has not been officially terminated yet, but expects to be soon.

Which may explain why Stoddard spoke so freely with Channel 4.

Surti wouldn’t comment to Channel 4, but according to Out & About, Surti blamed the firings on staff cutbacks.

Hill plans to file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor, bt it’s not clear how far that will go. While U.S. law does protect against employment discrimination on the basis of religion, race, and ethnicity, and disability, it doesn’t cover sexual orientation.


January 9th, 2009

We’re in a recession now and it won’t be easy to find another job. Who the fuck cares that he’s gay? Unfortunately people are too judgmental in that area. I live in New York where people are much more tolerant. I hope Mr. Surti gets in alot of trouble. Assholes like him make the world a terrible place, and people like that should not only be erased in the job industry. They shouldn’t even exist!


January 9th, 2009

I think Mr. Surti needs a lesson in American civil disobedience. Who’s up for a boycott and letter writing campaign? Maybe his immigration status needs investigating?

Jonathan Justice

January 9th, 2009

Mr Surti would seem to have made an ill-considered investment. Persons wishing to make money in a given country that they are not from are not free to violate, with impunity, the employment practices that are the norms in the country targeted. On top of that, there is that employee manual with its formal enunciation of discrimination avoidance standards. Then we have the lunacy of excluding gay people from the operations of a hospitality industry facility. We have to ask, “How bad do you want your hotel to be?”

Let’s skip the speculation about just which cheesy and ill-considered management practices Mr. Surti wishes to implement until we find out just how much of a shock his ostentatiously moralistic system has set itself up for.


January 9th, 2009

He can try circumventing the gap in the anti-discrimination law (not just federal, but state as well) by instead suing for defamation. Declaring publicly that you fired someone because they were unfit, when they aren’t, is a slam-dunk case.


January 9th, 2009

IANAL, but I would think that if a company violated its written policy in fireing this employee, the company doesn’t have much standing in any suit against it.


January 9th, 2009

I think he’s got a case if the employee handbook prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That seems like a breach of contract at the very least.

JJ in Chicago

January 9th, 2009

With regards to a breach of employee handbook, I know of no case where anyone has been successful with that. It really boils down to what the law says.

This is a perfect example of why a sexual orientation ENDA needs to be passed and signed into law NOW.

This story is a perfect rebuke of those who support an “all or nothing” strategy, where the votes are there to include sexual orientation in ENDA, but not enough votes to include gender identity, therefore ENDA should be pulled from a vote (or so they say).

Mr. Hill and Mr. Stoddard are perfect examples of people being thrown under the bus, in the name of that failed all-or-nothing, we’re-not-free-until-we’re-all-free strategy.

Malarkey. The votes are there for a sexual orientation ENDA.

Pass it NOW.

L. Junius Brutus

January 9th, 2009

JJ in Chicago, you’re so right. I favor transgender protections (if there are enough votes), but even I have to throw up every time I hear the original ENDA be called “fully inclusive”? Really? Why doesn’t it need to include marital status and age to be FULLY inclusive?

JJ in Chicago

January 9th, 2009

And I should note that I also favor a trans-inclusive ENDA.

However, if the votes for gender identity are not there, then it means they wait.


January 9th, 2009

Tennessee state law may not protect against firing someone for being gay, but I wonder if the employee handbook might be a problem for the employer. It would seem difficult to defend firing someone for something you promised to protect them over. Obama better get ENDA passed.


January 9th, 2009


I agree that the hotel manager should lose his job over this, but I had to chuckle at the irony of how you talk about tolerance and then say people like Mr. Surti “shouldn’t even exist!”


January 9th, 2009

The thing I find bizarre about this story is the fact that a previously-fired gay employee freely provided a list of other gay employees to the owner.

If he was already fired, why would he throw all his fellow gay employees under the bus as well? Perhaps he was closeted, so his revenge is to take all the relatively “out” employees along with him?

There’s a part of this story that we’re not hearing.


January 9th, 2009

Matt, I’m very curious about your comment that the manager should lose his job, the manager is gay. Mr. Surti is the owner, not a manager. Mr. Surti is the one who needs to be educated.

And, apparently Mr. Surti is over-extended and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now would be a really good time to do everything in our power to hurt him until he bleeds enough money to leave this country. He can return to wherever he crawled out of.


January 9th, 2009

I long for the day when we no longer read or hear right wing terminology such as “sexual preference”, “alternative lifestyle”, and “gay lifestyle” that are solely meant to denigrate lesbians and gay men.


January 9th, 2009

Frankly, is there anything anyone can do about this? Tennessee doesn’t protect gays from being fired by law. So…I think it’s a reminder that 33 states allow this to happen.


January 9th, 2009

This case is a perfect example of why people like Andrew “MilkyLoads” Sullivan are wrong in opposing ENDA. I have never understood Sully’s opposition to ENDA, hate crimes legislation, or other pro-gay policies. He seems to argue either that they are asking for “special rights” or “thought crimes”. Well I would like to see Mr. Sully explain to David Hill why he lost his job.

Timothy Kincaid

January 9th, 2009


Please provide a link to where Andrew Sullivan opposed ENDA, hate crimes, or other pro-gay policies.


January 9th, 2009

Mr. Surti should be deported. If I were the fired employee I’d call INS and have them check out his papers. If there’s one irregularity, out he goes.


January 9th, 2009

While it is deplorable that a person would be fired for anything other than poor work performance or genuine financial losses, Mr. Surti is simply following the model that our government has established. Although boycotting is definitely a viable option, why not try a little outreach first? Maybe have some people from an LGBT organization provide him with sensitivity training? If that fail, hit him in his wallet and send him scrambling to the soup kitchen line (just kidding).


January 9th, 2009


It is well known that Andrew Sullivan is philosophically opposed to hate crimes laws. (A most sensible position.)

On the Daily Dish for 3 May 2007, Sullivan wrote,

There are, I think, two coherent positions on hate crime laws. The first is opposition to the entire concept, its chilling effect on free speech, its undermining of the notion of equality under the law, and so on. That’s my position. I oppose all hate crimes laws, regardless of the categories of individuals they purport to protect. [Emphasis added]

Sullivan also doesn’t think much of ENDA. According to Wikipedia:

he has opposed all hate crime laws, arguing that they undermine freedom of speech and equal protection [19]. He has opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, arguing that it will, “not make much of a difference” and stated that the “gay rights establishment” was wrong to oppose a version of the bill that did not also include gender identity [20].


January 10th, 2009

As a Nashville citizen I am both embarrassed an appalled by this story. Nashville is a surprisingly progressive city. It’s quite gay friendly as well.

Tarun Surti and his wife Lata are easy to locate on the internet, but unfortunately the only means I could find to contact them (outside of snail mail) was via his hotel.

Please let Tarun how you feel via the hotel email form:


Or call the hotel directly at (615) 373-2600


January 10th, 2009

The owner’s name makes it highly likely that he comes from a culture where infant girls are often thrown down wells, and it’s OK to off them in later life too if they disappoint.

Keep that “my culture” bullshit. Hypocrites just love to cite their holy books, upbringing, whatever to justify their irrational hatreds, but how many of them do you ever find actually adhering to what they say they believe?

JJ in Chicago

January 10th, 2009

I read Andrew Sullivan’s blog several times a week, and I never got the impression he opposes ENDA.

I do not think the “gay rights establishment” is wrong to oppose a version of ENDA if the votes for gender identity are not there for passage. If he said that, then I disagree.

In fact, passing a sexual orientation ENDA will demonstrate that the sky won’t fall (because it won’t), thereby paving the way for gender identity. It will also pave the way for a fully comprehensive federal gay civil rights bill that includes public accommodations, credit and housing, followed by a trans-inclusive version of that too.

A sexual orientation ENDA is one small step toward federal civil rights. (Remember, it’s only employment).

This process is gonna happen incrementally. He should know that.


January 10th, 2009

maybe one way to stop it is to investigate whether discriminatory practices exist at Turun’s ARTE center, and hold off the federal $$ it gets until the investigation is complete.

Regan DuCasse

January 10th, 2009

Well, whatever Mr. Surti’s culture IS, WE have certain protections in place in OURS.
If he finds gay people unacceptable, HE doesn’t have to own a business that not only SHOULD have gay employees, but would he turn away gay customers?
Does he care about the comforts of gay customers in having gay service members to see to them?

Is he Hindu, or Muslim? Does his hotel restaurant serve, beef, pork…alcohol?

So OVER that ‘culture’ thing.
When it’s all said and done, his culture has gay people like ours does.
And gay people were here BEFORE any established religion wherever he’s from too.

Some people make stupid BUSINESS decisions in thinking they can treat gay people this way, don’t they?

Nevada Blue

January 12th, 2009

just FYI, its very likely that his insurance policy excludes discrimination suits, so even if any lawsuits aren’t successful, he will still have to pay to defend out of his own pocket.

Just some thoughts

January 19th, 2009

Wow…I have read all the comments and am very surprised at the closed mindedness of everyone. I believe that Mr Suri should be reprimanded for his actions but everyone else is highly vindictive in their comments. Gays are not the only people to be discriminated against in the work place but everyone is acting like that’s all there is. Maybe, just maybe, everyone should remember that in this country you are at least able to take this man to court for his actions. I would doubt you could do it in any other country. They would probably just laugh in your face it you tried…
We should be thankful that our country is trying to change errors in judgment as quickly as they are. Look how long it took to end slavery. Look how long it took to get equal rights for women, and that’s not even really done yet. Look how long we have been gunning for Religious freedom and that still isn’t happening yet. This idea to take him for all he is worth or send him back where he came from really isn’t going to solve anything. We will all just be known as those filthy rich Americans with no morals or values. Aside from the fact that if all we do is bicker with each other then why should any other Country take us seriously?

Timothy Kincaid

January 19th, 2009

Maybe, just maybe, everyone should remember that in this country you are at least able to take this man to court for his actions.

You are mistaken. In Tennessee it is perfectly legal to fire someone because they are gay. There is no basis for a lawsuit.


May 13th, 2009

I am being fired because I am a Gay woman . I work for Jenny Craig and have been harassed for almost a year , HR is not helping . They refuse to promote me or transfer me to another market. I do not know what to do about this .

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