Gay Federal Employee Says Facebook 'Like' Led to Discrimination, Harassment and Firing

PHOTO: Peter TerVeer filed a complaint of discrimination based on sexual orientation against his employer, the Library of Congress.

Peter TerVeer, 30, a gay auditor at the Library of Congress, said his "liking" a Facebook page that promoted gay adoption led to workplace discrimination, harassment and his eventual firing.

TerVeer said he'd had a "friendly" relationship with his supervisor, as well as "exemplary" marks and performance reviews before his boss learned he was gay.

TerVeer said the harassment started when his supervisor forwarded a "threatening" email to him stating "Diversity - Let's Celebrate It" alongside a picture of assault rifles.

Fired on April 6 for missing 37 consecutive workdays, TerVeer said he was on disability leave because of a severe anxiety disorder triggered by a hostile work environment. Although he said a supervisor had signed off on the leave, he said the Library of Congress said the leave had expired.

"It felt like the seams were coming undone on a career that I had moved halfway across the country for and that was my everything," TerVeer said.

He filed a complaint in late 2011 based on religious and sexual orientation harassment and discrimination with the Library of Congress' Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office, which is expected to respond by May 9. Thomas Simeone, TerVeer's attorney, said TerVeer could either accept its terms, file an appeal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a private lawsuit.

In February 2008, the Fremont, Mich., native moved to Washington, D.C., with high hopes. He'd been hired at the Library of Congress on a temporary basis and became a permanent management analyst in October 2008. In January 2009, he was placed on a career track, and received promotions in March 2009 and March 2011.

TerVeer said he had "dealt with" confrontations about his sexual orientation when he lived in Michigan and hoped to share his sexual orientation when he "was more established" in his job.

About four years before his move to D.C., TerVeer said he'd come out to his Christian parents, and although they're now "very supportive," that wasn't always the case.

"I had known there was a conservative element in my supervisor, and figured it would be better after transitioning into a new career," he said.

TerVeer said he and his supervisor had had a "very cordial relationship." They both enjoyed football and discussed politics. His supervisor invited TerVeer to a University of Maryland football game with his wife and son.

TerVeer said his supervisor "pushed" his daughter, whom TerVeer has never met, "onto me," and she then friended him on Facebook.

Around August 2009, TerVeer said he "liked" the Facebook page, Two Dads. It was around that time that Facebook had updated its privacy settings, publishing user actions on users' walls.

TerVeer said his supervisor's daughter saw the "like" action on his wall, and subsequently commented "You're not one of those weirdos, are you?" The next day, TerVeer said she "unfriended" him and blocked him from her Facebook page.

From that day on, TerVeer said he was treated differently at work. After TerVeer received the email with a photo of the rifles, he said his supervisor began to lecture him about religion.

A spokeswoman for the Library of Congress said the library does not comment on personnel matters.

"Library of Congress employees, like all employees in the federal government, have protection against workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act," the spokeswoman said in a statement. "Library employees who believe they have been subjected to discrimination may avail themselves of an internal administrative process to address their equal employment opportunity complaints."

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