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A sexual and religious discrimination lawsuit initiated by a gay, Jewish social worker against the Salvation Army will go forward following a Manhattan judge’s denial of the Salvation Army’s motion to dismiss. Zachary Logan, who counseled victims of the World Trade Center attack, claims in his suit he was harassed by his Salvation Army supervisor regarding his sexual orientation and religion. When he complained, he was fired, he alleges. In its motion to dismiss, the Salvation Army contended its status as a religious organization exempted it from city and state anti-discrimination laws Justice Richard F. Braun strongly disagreed. The “limited exemptions for religious organizations are a far cry from letting them harass their employees and treat the employees in an odiously discriminatory manner during their employment, and to use derogatory expressions toward the employees,” Justice Braun wrote in Logan v. Salvation Army , 100456/05. “Contrary to defendant’s argument that Federal case law should be looked to here, our Court of Appeals has spoken: religious organizations, just like other employers, may not discriminate unlawfully against their employees, and the limited exemptions . . . do not allow religious organizations to discriminate beyond the permitted exemptions.” Justice Braun allowed five of plaintiff Zachary Logan’s six causes of action to go forward, including claims of sexual and religious discrimination and unlawful retaliation. He dismissed a charge of sexual orientation discrimination under the state’s Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, holding that the act did not apply to incidents preceding its effective date of Jan. 16, 2003. Mr. Logan worked as a senior caseworker on the World Trade Center Disaster Relief project from October 2001 until January 2002. According to Justice Braun’s decision, Mr. Logan’s supervisor, Michelle Pallak “acted hostilely toward [Mr. Logan] because of his sexual orientation and religious background.” In December 2001, for example, Ms. Pallak said to Mr. Logan, “I wonder how the [Salvation Army's] officers would feel if they knew they had a Jewish fag working for them,” according to the decision. After Mr. Logan reported Ms. Pallak’s harassing behavior to a human resources representative, Ms. Pallak continued to harass him, Justice Braun wrote. When Mr. Logan and Ms. Pallak met with a human resources employee, “rather than being allowed to present his concerns, plaintiff was reprimanded.” Mr. Logan was fired in January 2002. According to the decision, Ms Pallak said to Mr. Logan’s colleagues that she hoped he “did not play the gay card.” Earlier this year, Mr. Logan initiated his suit. He alleged religious and sexual-orientation discrimination and unlawful retaliation, under both the New York City Human Rights Law and the New York State Human Rights Law. “[T]he claims cannot be dismissed due to defendant’s status as a religious organization,” Justice Braun wrote. “Invidious discrimination, including by religious institutions, has no place in our society. If the allegations made by plaintiff are true, he should be compensated for defendant’s bad acts.” The Salvation Army, which calls itself a “Christian movement with a social service program,” has been involved in a number of other conflicts regarding the religion or sexual orientation of its workers. In 2004, 18 current and former employees sued the Salvation Army, claiming its campaign to make its staff members comply with its religious mission violated federal antidiscrimination statutes. In September, Southern District Judge Sidney Stein dismissed those claims, ruling that it was a private entity that could not be found liable unless it engaged in state action. However, he allowed two retaliation claims under state and city law to go forward. (See NYLJ, Oct. 7.) There also have been numerous protests nationwide against the Salvation Army’s refusal to provide benefits for employees’ domestic partners. The protests often entail putting fake money into the Salvation Army’s iconic Christmas collection kettles. In the present case, Marc A. Susswein of Liddle & Robinson represents the plaintiff, Mr. Logan. “We are pleased that the court recognized that religious organizations are bound by the same rules as other employers and that when religious organizations engage in ‘odious, discriminatory’ conduct, that they will be held accountable for their acts,” Mr. Susswein said yesterday. “We were encouraged by the court’s conclusion that Mr. Logan should be compensated for this wrong.” Cindy E. Molloy of Tratner and Molloy represents the Salvation Army. “Obviously, the factual allegations are denied and we are considering our next step regarding Justice Braun’s narrow construction of the religious organization exemption,” she said yesterday. ? Mark Fass can be reached at [email protected] .

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