“I was promoted, promised training and support, and received positive evaluations. The minute they found out I was gay, that all changed.”
Late yesterday, Lambda Legal filed a second complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society, Inc. on behalf of a second former employee who was demoted and then fired after he revealed that he was gay. Also, as with the first complaint, Lambda Legal filed a Human Relations Discrimination Complaint (HRDC) with the City of Dallas under its “Unlawful Discriminatory Practices” ordinance which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
“The Dallas Arboretum’s mistreatment of and discrimination against David Jeffcoat was blatant, inexcusable, and illegal, especially for an employee who had served the Arboretum for more than seven years,” Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Shelly Skeen said. “David reveals he is gay and living with his male partner to whom he was married, and suddenly it’s as if the years of loyal service, the positive reviews and encouragement, and the promotion didn’t happen. The only thing that changed between David’s promotion in June 2021 and termination in February 2022 is that Arboretum management learned that David is gay.”
David Jeffcoat worked at the Dallas Arboretum as a gate attendant from September 2014, until June 2021. In June 2021, Arboretum management promoted David to Operations Supervisor, promising to provide training and support to allow David to grow and succeed in his new position, which his new supervisor told him would take him at least one year and maybe two years to learn. Failing to keep its promise to provide David with reviews and feedback every thirty (30) days, management missed its 30-day review, but did conduct 60- and 90-day reviews and gave David positive evaluations.
In October, in compliance with the Arboretum’s COVID-19 protocols, David notified his supervisor that he had been exposed to COVID because his partner and the man he was living with had come down with COVID. David did not hide his sexual orientation from his co-workers, but he was private about it and had not told a member of management that he was gay until then.
Almost immediately, management’s attitude towards David shifted radically. Management started scheduling him for back-to-back shifts and gave him long lists of tasks to complete which, as the Arboretum was short-staffed as result of COVID-19, required David to work late to complete. During the holiday season, he often started at 8 a.m., left at 10:30 at night, only to be required to return at 8 a.m. In late October, a manager cussed him out in front of staff, including using the F word, and then he was demoted from Operations Supervisor for the Main Garden and the Children’s Garden to Operations Supervisor for only the Children’s Garden. Then, in January, David injured himself after he slipped and fell on the ice at the Arboretum after an ice storm. After missing one day of work, and then arriving late the following day due to doctor-ordered physical therapy, he was fired.
“I was promoted, promised training and support, and received positive evaluations,” David said. “After they found out I was gay and living with my husband that all changed. They loaded extra daily duties on me, knowing I wouldn’t be able to finish them as we were short-staffed, and then cussed me out publicly when I couldn’t perform to their expectations. Then I hurt myself, and instead of giving me the time and space to recover, they fired me. After more than seven years of loyal service for low pay, that’s just wrong, and that’s why I’m bringing this complaint. I want to see the Arboretum treat all of its employees, regardless of who they are, with dignity, respect, understanding and acceptance.
This is the second EEOC charge and Dallas Human Relations Discrimination complaint Lambda Legal has filed against the Dallas Arboretum on behalf of a terminated LGBTQ+ employee. In November of 2021, Lambda Legal filed complaints on behalf of a genderqueer lesbian who was fired after they started putting their pronouns in the email signature line, wearing pronoun pins at work, and encouraging their employees to be their authentic selves at work. Since those complaints were filed, other reports of anti-LGBTQ+ bias, racial bias, and bias against those living with a disability at the Arboretum have surfaced. Dallas LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations have organized bi-monthly protests outside of the Arboretum gates, which they have vowed to continue until the Arboretum becomes a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable place to visit and work.
A copy of the EEOC complaint is available here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/arboretum_20220601_eeoc-complaint
Read more about Lambda Legal’s work on behalf of former Arboretum employees here: https://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/in-re-dallas-arboretum
Lambda Legal attorneys Shelly L. Skeen and Nicholas Guillory are handling the case.