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May 01 2012

Important Victory in NY Discrimination Case

A chef from New York has won an important discrimination suit against her former employer, who forced her to attend Pentecostal services, told her that she had to become heterosexual to avoid going to hell, and eventually fired her. And the story is pretty incredible.

The owner of the restaurant where she worked, Edward Globakar, converted to Pentecostalism and began closing the restaurant on Wednesday afternoons and requiring all employees to attend a prayer service that included frequent condemnations of homosexuality. The chef, Mirella Salemi, was a lesbian and also a Catholic. She objected to being forced to attend such services and was frequently harangued by the boss about her sinful lifestyle and used anti-gay slurs toward her.

According to the transcript of the case, No. 117115/2007, Salemi, a chef and manager of the restaurant from 2002-2007, was subjected to discrimination based on her Catholic religion and sexual orientation as a lesbian, and suffered harassment, constructive discharge, and retaliatory actions.

“He (Globakar) not only threatened her soul, but he also threatened her livelihood,” said attorney Derek Smith. “He thought praying might cure her of her sexuality, but she did not need to be saved.”

The verdict report for Case 117115/2007, Mirella Salemi v. Gloria’s Tribeca, Inc. (d/b/a Mary Ann’s), et al, clarifies the harassment that Salemi faced on the job from 2004, when Globakar converted to Pentecostal Evangelical Christianity, up until she left in 2007. Every Wednesday, Globakar would lock the doors of the restaurant and force all the employees, including Salemi, to attend a prayer service from 3p.m. to 5p.m. that was conducted by members of his church. During that service, Globakar and his pastor would condemn homosexuality. In addition, according to the verdict report, Globakar handed out religious paraphernalia at work and used slurs against homosexuals on a regular basis. He allegedly told Salemi to become more “effeminate” in her behavior and clothing, get married to a man and have children, or else she would go to hell.

Salemi told the jury that she repeatedly asked Globakar to stop disparaging her sexual orientation and forcing her to attend services for a religion that she didn’t practice, but he refused, threatening her employment if she didn’t attend church or change her sexuality.

Two former co-workers corroborated Salemi’s testimony about the goings-on at Mary Ann’s and the treatment Salemi experienced. Also according to the verdict report for Case 117115/2007, Globakar himself testified that he regularly closed the restaurant for church meetings and considered homosexuality a sin “on par with murder,” and that being gay was “immoral, abnormal, unnatural, and similar to a mental illness,” and as such could be “cured” by prayer. The only witness Globakar’s defense team produced was an employee who had worked for Globakar for 18 years, who testified that he was loyal and would not do anything to hurt his boss.

In 2007, Salemi, who was also a 10 percent owner in the restaurant, was constructively discharged and quit in 2007 when she stated she “could not take the abuse anymore.”

The jury awarded her a total of $1.6 million. Hopefully that will make other business owners think twice before trying to impose their vile religious beliefs on their employees.

23 comments

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  1. 1
    Reginald Selkirk

    … similar to a mental illness,” and as such could be “cured” by prayer.

    Wacko.

  2. 2
    Akira MacKenzie

    And the Christians will start screaming and yelling that their religious freedoms have been violated by the godless secularists in 3… 2… 1…

    However…

    …was a lesbian and also a Catholic.

    (Exasperated sigh)

    Is that anything like being an African-American Klansman? (Fuck off, Godwin!)

  3. 3
    raven

    chef from New York has won an important discrimination suit against her former employer, who forced her to attend Pentecostal services,…

    That could be construed as torture.

    Torture is illegal in the USA. Unless it’s by the government and you are a Moslem anyway.

  4. 4
    Modusoperandi

    Pah! As the recent hoohaa with Catholic universities and, um, hoohaas is any indication, Freedom of Religion only applies to employers.
    This is America! It’s Capitalism, not Laborism.

  5. 5
    tynk

    @Akira MacKenzie

    However…

    …was a lesbian and also a Catholic.

    (Exasperated sigh)

    I was both for a while too, at least in name. It was much harder for me to come out as an atheist (about 10 years later) though I do not remember ever actually believing. Everyone I knew was catholic.

  6. 6
    robertbaden

    Lock the doors?

    Unlawful imprisonment?

    Fire Hazard?

  7. 7
    jamessweet

    The verdict is correct, of course, and the large ruling appropriate. But I’m not sure I’d call it an “important” victory — at least, I hope it’s not “important” in the sense that we usually refer to “important” legal victories. It seems like “open-and-shut” would be an understatement here… the boss’s behavior isn’t just over the line, you have to take freakin’ relativity into account when calculating how fast this shit blew past the line.

    I have difficulty imagining that people like this exist and think they can get away with it.

  8. 8
    Doug Little

    you have to take freakin’ relativity into account when calculating how fast this shit blew past the line

    Well special relativity (SR).

  9. 9
    d cwilson

    … similar to a mental illness,” and as such could be “cured” by prayer.

    A two-for-one deal on fallacies!

    I have difficulty imagining that people like this exist and think they can get away with it.

    They justify it by telling themselves that they’re saving souls. Many of them honestly don’t understand why anyone could be offended by their attempts to “warn” people that they’re going to hell.

    This is what makes reivisionists like Barton so dangerous. If they succeed in remaking this country in their image, cases like this won’t be open-and-shut anymore. They’d be illegal to even bring about.

  10. 10
    abb3w

    @2, Akira MacKenzie:

    Is that anything like being an African-American Klansman?

    Not that much. GSS-2010 says that among US Catholic laity, those who say homosexuality is not wrong at all (insignificantly) outnumber those who think it’s always wrong. The trend has been headed to increasing acceptance over time for a couple decades.

    The clergy are slowly losing ground on this. The church may even end up apologizing over it in another couple centuries.

  11. 11
    Akira MacKenzie

    While I am heterosexual I was raised Catholic myself, but at when I began to realize that that there was something deeply inconsistent between my previous faith and reality I did the only honest thing: I renounced their god and the fucking church and never looked back. I didn’t try to shoehorn one to fit the other for the sake of “sentimentality,” “family,” “community,” or other maudlin codswallop.

    Now, to be fair, we don’t have the full story about Ms. Salemi’s beliefs. However, the fact that she even identifies as a Catholic means she has some support for that den of homophobic slime. I fear that she is of that American strain of Catholicism that thinks that somehow they will change the church’s positions regarding sexuality, contraceptives, women, etc..

    Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Roman Catholic Church IS NOT a democracy. It is a atavistic remnant of Medieval feudalism (as opposed to the modern, capitalist variety). It is an autocracy ruled by a cabal of celibate (at least with adults) old men who claim that they are getting their orders directly from a cosmic dictator who also not accountable to his alleged creations. They don’t have to listen to their flock! While they can no longer get away with executing them as they did in the Good Old Days of Catholic hegemony, they can still just wish these heretics a tortuous eternity in Hell and continue to elect anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-secular bigots to the posts of bishop, cardinal, and High Exalted Altar Boy Rapist… I mean, pontiff…who will change nothing.

  12. 12
    jamessweet
    you have to take freakin’ relativity into account when calculating how fast this shit blew past the line

    Well special relativity (SR).

    Hmmm, maybe. Are you sure that the sheer mass of cluelessness on display here isn’t causing a significant amount of spacetime curvature that we have to account for in our calculations?

  13. 13
    subbie

    Hopefully that will make other business owners think twice before trying to impose their vile religious beliefs on their employees.

    I dunno about that. We have substantial evidence they haven’t even thought once. Aren’t you setting the bar rather high?

  14. 14
    d cwilson

    The church may even end up apologizing over it in another couple centuries.

    Assuming it still exists in a few centuries (one can always hope).

  15. 15
    wordsmatter

    $1.6 million?

    Any bets as to what fraction of that she actually sees, whether or not she even gets enough for her legal fees?

    I’m not talking about her attorney taking a third, I’m referring to the fact that in civil cases like this the losing party frequently just goes belly-up, their insurance disappears, their assets disappear, and Salemi gets to choose between accepting nothing, or incurring significant new additional legal expenses to chase Globakar through the courts for a few more years.

    What’s awarded in the courtroom rarely actually ends up in anything like the awarded amount by the time it gets to the injured party.

  16. 16
    slc1

    I suspect that the Pentecostal church that this noodle brain joined probably doesn’t consider the Raping Children Church a Christian organization.

  17. 17
    stace

    I didn’t try to shoehorn one to fit the other for the sake of “sentimentality,” “family,” “community,” or other maudlin codswallop.

    I submit that “The Maudlin Codswallop Experience” would be an awesome name for a band.

  18. 18
    timberwoof

    How much is the restaurant worth? She already has a 10% stake in it, so handing over the rest might be adequate.

  19. 19
    Artor

    @abb3w
    “The church may even end up apologizing over it in another couple centuries.”

    Not likely. If the church ever gets over it, they’ll insist that they always supported homosexuality because the Bible says to, and anyone who claims otherwise is guilty of historical revisionism.

  20. 20
    Doug Little

    Hmmm, maybe. Are you sure that the sheer mass of cluelessness on display here isn’t causing a significant amount of spacetime curvature that we have to account for in our calculations?

    Touché!

  21. 21
    Michael Heath

    Artor writes:

    If the church ever gets over it, they’ll insist that they always supported homosexuality because the Bible says to, and anyone who claims otherwise is guilty of historical revisionism.

    Prior to the rise of Fox News (dominated by Catholics), the recent behavior of the American bishops and the current pope, and the RCC’s recent political alliance with American fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, I would have argued this was an unfair characterization of the RCC.

  22. 22
    Childermass

    I guess the employer did not read the “Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law” posters that he was required to post where employees could read it.

  23. 23
    Raging Bee

    $1.6 million? How many restaurants does this guy own? And how successful is his business? Given the sheer blatant abusive derangement on display here — not to mention the central importance he places on bashing gays — I suspect his business is doing rather poorly, and he’s compensating by cracking down harder on his employees and looking for a scapegoat.

    Of course, another guess is that his personal life is doing poorly, and he’s taking his frustrations out on his employees. Either way, it’s another case of personal problems distorted and exacerbated by an irrational religious belief.

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