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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Ex-Employee Can Proceed With Gay Bias Claim

(CN) - A federal judge in Manhattan allowed a former employee of the New York clothing store LaQue to sue the store for discrimination after he was allegedly fired because the owner thought he was gay.

U.S. District Judge Peter K. Leisure said Ron Padmore showed sufficient evidence that he was fired from LaQue Clothing because "he was perceived to be homosexual by his employer" and was "discriminated against based on his perceived sexual orientation."

Padmore's New York City and state human rights claims will be settled at trial. But Judge Leisure granted LaQue's motion to dismiss copyright, trademark and defamation claims.

Padmore had sued the clothing maker, also known as LC Play, and its sole shareholder, Erastus Pratt, in 2006. He worked in public relations and event planning for LaQue for a little more than a year.

During that time, he said he designed a press kit that "contained a new marketing phase of his own creation, entitled: 'Life + Style = LaQue.'"

He allegedly told Pratt about his interest in obtaining rights to the slogan in a phone call around the time he was fired.

LaQue fired him via email, stating that the company had "terminated the agreement with you due to marketing directions." But Padmore said he received a second email from Pratt's business account that stated:

"The reason for your termination was because of the image of my company. The models and other people had questions about your sexuality and my company can't afford to [be] attached to no gay shit," Pratt allegedly wrote. "How does it look for a men's [sic] clothing line to have a fruit cake as the spokesperson [sic], not my company. Sorry dude, but that's just how this business is. Best of luck. [Signed Erastus Pratt]."

Padmore said he is not gay, and never told Pratt that he was, but that Pratt mistakenly believed he was.

LaQue argued that the message could have been written and sent by someone else at the company who had access to Pratt's computer.

But evidence in the case, highlighted by the email, was damning enough to convince the judge to let the discrimination claims play out.

"Padmore is a member of a protected class, as he was perceived to be homosexual by his employer and is claiming that he was discriminated against based on his perceived sexual orientation," Leisure wrote. "And the claim that he was performing his duties satisfactorily is supported by sworn statements from a former co-worker."

LaQue moved to dismiss the other claims on the grounds that Padmore's projects were "works for hire" and that "any allegedly defamatory remarks made by LaQue were statements of opinion that do not constitute defamatory speech."

Padmore ignored these issues in his court filings, only addressing the purported human rights violations.

"Under these circumstances, the court finds that Padmore has abandoned his copyright, trademark, and defamation claims," Leisure wrote. He added that even if the former employee had pursued his claims, "summary judgment would be warranted at least on the copyright and defamation claims for a number of reasons."

One example cited was that short phrases and slogan's such as "Life + Style = LaQue" cannot be copyrighted, even if they can be trademarked.

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