Home Depot illegally embarked on a cost-cutting campaign during the economic downturn in 2008 that involved firing all of its gay male employees, a former worker at the company’s Lemon Grove location claims in court.
Hardy “Lex” Housh, now living in Orange County, is seeking $100,000 for discrimination and sexual harassment, Courthouse News Service reports.
“Home Depot was concerned with 'gay male' employees because of its perception that it would pay more medical benefits associated with HIV and AIDS viruses,” says Housh’s complaint.
In order to eliminate Housh and other long-term employees who drew higher salaries than more recent hires (Housh was 57 and had been working for Home Depot for 25 years when he was fired from his assistant manager job in February 2012), the company allegedly engaged in the practice of placing false disciplinary “write-ups” in employees’ files. Housh says he had several of these, and was ultimately fired for placing a microwave in a trash compactor, an act which he denies.
Housh further claims to have been the victim of continual sexual harassment with increasing severity after his sexual orientation, which he had not volunteered to co-workers, was revealed when he registered a domestic partnership in 2011 and added his partner to his health insurance plan. In one incident Rudy Peralta, a San Diego store manager and one of the named defendants, is alleged to have e-mailed Housh a collection of inappropriate pictures.
“The pictures included a large penis protruding from an uncooked turkey's stuffing hole, an African American posing in women's lingerie with his penis showing, the picture of a naked child with a man's head photo shopped onto the child's head, and the picture of a man's rear end with a large X over the same,” states the complaint.
Housh does not provide any information about how he became aware of the anti-gay directive, or whether it was an actual company policy rather than an issue with Peralta and a handful of other local managers named individually as defendants in the suit.