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.