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Gay teacher says he was fired due to his sexuality – now he’s suing

Gay teacher says he was fired due to his sexuality – now he’s suing

Gay teacher Barry Hobson

A gay teacher in Washington DC is suing the local union, saying he was subjected to a hostile workplace and, ultimately, was fired due to his sexuality.

The Washington Teachers Union (WTU) hired Barry Hobson, 36, as a receptionist and office assistant on 15 January 2017. One of the defendants in his suit is Dorothy Egbufor. She was the chief of staff of the WTU at the time and also Hobson’s direct supervisor.

Hobson’s attorneys filed the lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on 18 September. Other defendents include WTU’s President Elizabeth Davis and the union itself.

WTU currently serves over 5,000 active and retired teachers in DC.

The lawsuit states the WTU board met around 1 April 2017 and voted to terminate Hobson, per Egbufor’s recommendation.

An immediate reaction

Hobson alleges in the lawsuit that Egbufor learned he was gay during a phone call on 31 January 2017. They were discussing his benefits.

Egbufor asked who ‘Timothy’ was on the benefits documents, and Hobson replied he was his fiancé (now husband). The lawsuit states: ‘Prior to abruptly hanging up on Plaintiff, Defendant Egbufor said in a tone of disgust with a raised voice, “Your fiancé, ok Barry goodbye.” Then she immediately hung up.’

This reportedly led to a dispute and denial of Hobson’s healthcare benefits.

The lawsuit contains two emails that Egbufor allegedly sent.

In the first, she reportedly wrote: ‘Allowing Barry Hobson benefits will without question open the door to many issues down the road. Market data shows a substantial premium/rate increase when allowing the LGBT community to participate in employer sponsored plans for various reasons.

‘AIDS, HIV, and STD statistics are great pricing factors when considering this community and would be a detriment to our regular employees…’

One of Hobson’s attorneys, Brian Markovitz, stated this is a violation of the DC Human Rights Act.

The recommendation for firing

In the second email, Egbufor allegedly recommended firing Hobson.

‘Barry’s nature of resistance and pushback is common among his peers in the homosexual community and will be an ongoing issue for WTU if not addressed,’ she purportedly wrote.

‘As a result, I plan to recommend termination and immediately begin reassigning the remainder of his job duties to various staff in the coming days.’

WTU denies it

In a statement to the Washington Blade, Davis questioned the emails. She also said they are hiring an outside firm to analyze the authenticity of the emails.

Overall, Davis called Hobson’s claims ‘outrageous and totally without merit’.

‘The Washington Teachers Union has always been, and continues to be strongly committed to treating all individuals equally regardless of their sexual orientation,’ she concluded.

WTU’s General Vice President Jacqueline Pogue-Lyons agreed to write Hobson a recommendation later in his search for a new job.

In the letter, she called Hobson ‘a truly valuable asset to any team’. She also described him as ‘honest, dependable, and incredibly hard-working’, and someone who ‘manages to foster positive discussions and bring the best out of other employees’.

GSN contacted WTU for further comment.

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