It allegedly started with “liking” a Facebook page about two dads. It ended in the first step toward formal legal action against a revered D.C. institution.
Peter TerVeer, once a management analyst in the Inspector General’s Office at the Library of Congress, was fired last week.
In a complaint filed with the Library of Congress’ Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office, which could issue an opinion in the days ahead, he is alleging that his former supervisor John Mech, a senior auditor, discriminated against him because he is gay.
TerVeer came on as a temporary employee with the LOC in February 2008. Receiving awards for strong performance, he was hired on full time in October of that year and received his first of two promotions the following March. He continued to work well with Mech and other members of the staff. He and Mech were actually good friends at work, bonding over a shared love of sports in particular.
In August 2009, TerVeer said things began to change, as documents obtained by Roll Call suggest. Mech’s daughter noticed that TerVeer had “liked” the “Two Dads” page on Facebook, which led her to ask TerVeer whether he was gay. He said yes.
Shortly after, TerVeer said, he started to receive emails from Mech that contained “religiously motivated harassment and discrimination.” Mech then called him into a meeting for the purposes of “educating him on hell and that it awaited him for being a homosexual.”
A performance review came back from Mech containing, for the first time in TerVeer’s career at the LOC, less than stellar marks. TerVeer said that each time he challenged Mech about the review, he responded with verbal abuse and name-calling, often humiliating him in front of peers.
All this resulted, TerVeer said, in an emotional response so great that his doctor ordered him to go on extended medical leave.
He was ultimately fired for missing 37 consecutive workdays, though TerVeer maintains that library officials had signed off on his request for disability time off.
Gayle Osterberg, communications director for the LOC, said that the agency does not comment on personnel matters.
Though previous media reports have said that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is deliberating on the complaint, it is actually still being looked at within the LOC, according to Thomas Simeone, TerVeer’s attorney of just a few days.
For legislative branch agencies like the LOC, a discrimination complaint is first filed within an internal Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office. Upon receiving a complaint, the office must deliver a ruling. Simeone told Roll Call he expects a decision regarding his client within the month.
Should the ruling not be in TerVeer’s favor, he and his legal team can appeal that case with the EEOC, which has 180 days to review the case. Depending on its ruling, Simeone said, the next step is legal action in the courts.
The hope is that a lawsuit won’t be necessary, but the prospects of a sympathetic ruling from either the LOC or the EEOC are shaky.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.