Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for January, 2009

More Discrimination Alledged Against Tennessee Hotel Owner

Jim Burroway

January 14th, 2009

Remember the Brentwood, Tennessee, hotel owner who fired two employees because they were gay? Well since those stories came to light, more employees have come forward alleging discrimination based on gender and national origin, in addition to sexual orientation:

We were spoken down to,” former food and beverage manager Freda McAllister said. I guess in [the owner's] particular culture, women are second, so that was obvious from the treatment we got over there.”

“[We were told] we ‘didn’t know how to run businesses,’ and we should do things more like they do in India,” added Tamara Head, former controller.

Former front office manager Timothy Horne said that he was treated badly partly because of his young age and also because he was gay, a charge echoed by former hotel supervisor Sergeo Lleneza.

Federal law protects workers from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin and disability. It does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. While David Hill, one of the two gay employees who were fired, has filed complaints with the EEOC and the Department of Labor, those complaints aren’t likely to go anywhere.

But there does seem to be a modicum of justice in all this. Hotel owner Tarun Surti and his hotel are reportedly bankrupt.

Second Gay Employee Fired From Tennessee Hotel

Jim Burroway

January 12th, 2009

There’s a follow-up to the story of David Hill’s firing from the Artee Hotel in Brentwood, Tennessee. The hotel’s owner, Tarun Surti, had Hill fired when he found out Hill was gay. The Assistant General Manager, Leonard Stoddard, did the firing as ordered by Surti, and explained what happened to the local media. In the process, we learned that Stoddard was also gay, and that he expected to be fired as well.

Today we learn that other shoe dropped. Stoddard was terminated via email on Thursday. Surti wrote that Stoddard was fired because he alledgedly lied to the media about Hill’s termination. Stoddard and Hill plan on picketing outside the hotel on Saturday, January 17 at 9:00 a.m.

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.