Ashley Furniture sued for firing former employee based on sexual orientation

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By Chris Huqueriza

A local franchise of Ashley Furniture in New Jersey faces a discriminatory lawsuit after firing former employee Isabel Perez based on her sexual orientation.

During an initial interview in Secaucus, New Jersey with the shop’s CEO Eugene Chrinian and Director of People Services and Development Kathy Martin, Perez was asked questions regarding her marital status and religious views in separate employment interviews.

After hiring her, Martin requested Perez’s appearance for a meeting, where she took Perez’s hands in her own and started to pray to God for guidance regarding the “work situation.”

According to the Courthouse News Service, the situation continued: “During this same meeting, Martin disclosed the fact that she was frequently possessed by Jesus and would sometimes speak in tongues without warning. At this meeting, Martin said that she ‘spoke to God’ and that she was ‘sure [they]would make a balanced team…’ During this meeting, Martin made a number of derogatory remarks about homosexuals, stating that ‘lesbos and gays would be judged’ and that she follows the ‘word of Leviticus’ — which purportedly condemns homosexuality — and that ‘there are many who call themselves true Christians, but they don’t know what that means.”

The complaint against the company also states that Martin made direct derogatory, homophobic and racial, remarks regarding a number of colleagues.

Some of her co-workers knew Perez was a lesbian and married to a woman, but she tried to keep her orientation as anonymous as possible. Then, in 2012, Martin saw a Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker located on Perez’s car. Martin asked Perez if the sticker was designated for “the gays.” 

Martin’s official reason for Perez’s termination was stated in the complaint, saying: “She was not sure that she made the right decision about hiring plaintiff because she did not fit the ‘culture’ at the company. She then explained that she was going to ‘speak to God’ about plaintiff’s continued employment with Ashley.”

As one of America’s largest furniture manufacturing companies, Ashley Furniture Homestore has a history of  donations made to conservative political candidates and has publicly supported FamilyLife.

FamilyLife’s mission statement is “committed to helping people know and apply the biblical blueprints for maintaining a God-honoring marriage.”

Perez is suing the shop’s owner and the company itself for discriminatory termination.

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