Just weeks after the Supreme Court heard arguments on marriage equality, a former teacher of a New Jersey School district alleges that he was wrongfully terminated due to his sexual orientation. Ronald Savoie alleges that he was coerced into resigning as a French teacher at Lawrenceville, a New Jersey boarding school, after being confronted by the school’s administration about pornographic materials found in an on campus basement that belonged to Savoie. “An employer is not allowed to come into an employee’s bedroom and fire them,” said Alan Schorr, the attorney representing Savoie. “We have never had a decision where this has been the case.”
Savoie claims that he is aware that other staff members have been disciplined for engaging in sexual behavior on campus but not fired, because they were heterosexual. The school denies that their reasoning behind Savoie’s termination has anything to do with his sexual orientation.
Inappropriate Conduct Reason for Dismissal
“We believe that Mr. Savoie behaved inappropriately, in a manner inconsistent with our faculty code of conduct, and the school administration removed him from his job for that reason and that reason alone,” spokeswoman Jennifer Szwalek said yesterday in a statement. “Claims that his dismissal had anything to do with his sexual orientation are completely without foundation.”
The on-campus condo which belonged to Savoie, was entered by maintenance due to a water main break on campus. While in the condo, workers discovered sexual paraphernalia, computer equipment, video tapes and an “apparatus hanging from chains.” According to court records, the discovery by maintenance was not reported to the school’s administration until a year later when the same maintenance staff member was reluctant to enter Savoie’s apartment when it needed follow up repairs.
After hearing of the reports, Headmaster Michael Cary and Dean of Faculty Catherine Bozkowski, met with Mr. Savoie and asked him about the items in his condo. Savoie, a 21 year veteran of the school, acknowledged that he had engaged in sexual activity and taken photographs in the condominium, but neither students or other faculty members had ever participated in the activities.
Shortly thereafter the school requested Savoie submit his letter of resignation. Seeing no option, Savoie sent a letter withdrawing from his position the following day.
In 2011 a state court judge dismissed Savoie’s wrongful termination lawsuit, which he later appealed. Last week the appeals court remanded the case back to Superior Court for a trial by jury.
Savoie’s attorney indicated that his client is pleased that he will finally be able to present his case to a jury, and that a victory for him would set a precedent that employees are not terminable based on their sexual proclivities.
Despite the case proceeding to trial, the school is confident that they are in the right and the jury will find in their favor.
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