Nearly four months after he was fired, a one-time employee of the Library of Congress is suing the agency, alleging he lost his job because he is gay.
Peter TerVeer, a management analyst in the LOC Inspector General’s office from February 2008 until he was dismissed in early April, contends that a fulfilling career in which he excelled was cut short after his supervisor, John Mech, discovered he was gay.
In a lawsuit filed Friday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Librarian of Congress James Billington, attorneys are seeking financial relief for TerVeer to cover back pay and emotional distress, as well as the reinstatement of his position with the Library.
“As a result of the Defendant’s actions, the Plaintiff has suffered, and will continue to suffer, both economic and non-economic damages, emotional distress, and other compensable damages,” reads the complaint.
LOC Communications Director Gayle Osterberg said the agency’s policy is not to comment on pending litigation.
TerVeer insists his sexual orientation is the reason for his downfall at the agency.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not cover sexual orientation, and federal employees cannot claim discrimination that falls outside Title VII’s purview.
Of the seven allegations in TerVeer’s lawsuit, three deal specifically with protections granted by Title VII: He is claiming discrimination based on his gender, his religion and victimization by retaliation.
“TerVeer is a homosexual male whose sexual orientation is not consistent with the Defendant’s perception of acceptable gender roles,” reads the formal complaint.
The complaint also asserts that “upon learning that TerVeer’s religious beliefs embraced [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] individuals,” Mech “subjected him to harsh and discriminatory working conditions and religious lectures, making it clear that the Defendant did not approve of TerVeer’s brand of Christianity.”
The remaining counts charge the LOC with violating the portion of Title VII that prohibits “retaliation” against an employee on the basis of gender or religion and with denying TerVeer’s rights to “due process” and “equal protection” under the Fifth Amendment.
TerVeer’s attorneys, Thomas Simeone, Glen Ackerman and Christopher Brown, are also claiming violations of the Library of Congress Act, which entitled TerVeer to evaluations “solely with reference to [his] fitness for [the] particular duties of his position,” and of two LOC policy statements from 2010 and 2011 that “emphasized nondiscrimination and prevention of harassment and retaliation on the basis of religions beliefs or sexual orientation.”
Under these policies, TerVeer should have been “entitled to a work environment free from harassment of any kind, including harassment on the basis of religion or sexual orientation,” the complaint argues.
As a legislative branch employee, TerVeer had to file a discrimination complaint against Mech internally, with the Library of Congress Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office, before he could pursue formal legal action.
TerVeer filed that complaint in September 2011; in May 2012, the office issued a report that denied TerVeer’s claims, according to Friday’s district court document.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.