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Former San Mar employee files discrimination complaint

Woman claims she lost her job because she is a lesbian

June 04, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO — A former employee of San Mar Children’s Home in Boonsboro has filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, claiming she was discharged from her job because she is a lesbian, according to documents.

Sarah Rutledge, 29, alleges her co-workers made disparaging remarks about her sexual orientation and marriage to a woman throughout her time at San Mar.

Rutledge said she also was placed on probationary status on Sept. 29, 2011, and told she would have to meet several “measurable outcomes,” one of which included not saying anything about her spouse, the complaint alleges.

Bruce T. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of San Mar Children’s Home, declined to discuss the case in detail. But Anderson said Rutledge was not discharged from her job for sexual discrimination.
“That had nothing to do with it,” Anderson said.

Officials with the EEOC and the state civil rights commission said they could not comment on cases filed with their agencies.

San Mar Children’s Home provides care to adolescent and preadolescent girls who have experienced the traumas of abuse, molestation and general family dysfunction, according to the home’s website.

A copy of the EEOC filing was provided to The Herald-Mail by Baltimore attorney Jessica Weber, who is representing Rutledge.

In her complaint, Rutledge said staff and residents at San Mar knew she was a lesbian because she talked about her wife at work, just as her colleagues talked about their boyfriends and husbands.

She alleges one co-worker told her and residents that “it was wrong that I was gay,” according to the documents.

Rutledge, who was discharged from her job Dec. 22, 2011, said she told her supervisor about the comment, but the supervisor brushed it aside.

Rutledge alleges she was harassed because of her failure to conform to sexual stereotypes. While other employees brought in stereotypically female clothes for residents at the home, Rutledge said her supervisor told her she could not bring in more stereotypically masculine clothes for residents who requested them, according to documents.

She alleges her co-workers created a hostile environment for her by actively repressing any expressions of gay identity in the home.

Rutledge also alleges one co-worker told a female in the home to take down her gay pride poster, while another co-worker prohibited a resident from painting a rainbow in a mural because it is used as a symbol for gay pride.

Rutledge said despite receiving a positive 90-day performance review around June of last year, she was placed on probationary status on Sept. 29, the complaint alleges.

Rutledge said she was given a document called “Probationary Action-Initial Report,” which listed the “measurable outcomes” she would have to meet to be removed from probation.

In the measurable outcome in which Rutledge was told not to mention anything involving her wife, she was told not to encourage or discourage any particular lifestyle, according to the complaint.

“To my knowledge, no other employee at San Mar Children’s Home has been asked to refrain from mentioning her spouse or significant other at work as a condition for keeping her job,” Rutledge said in the complaint.

Rutledge is seeking lost wages as a result of losing her job, Weber said. She also is seeking relief for suffering, although Weber declined to say how much Rutledge is seeking.

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