An Internal Revenue Service employee has filed a lawsuit claiming he was subjected to anti-gay and anti-Hispanic discrimination at the agency’s Hartford office.
The lawsuit alleges Alfredo Plana’s supervisors ridiculed and laughed at him because of his Spanish accent, and treated him differently because he was the only openly gay employee in his 25-person working group. Plana works at the IRS Wage & Investment Field Assistance Office.
“There is a pervasive attitude of hostility toward my client,” said John R. Williams, Plana’s attorney. “He gets a lot of negative feedback from the supervisors he has to deal with without any apparent reason. He deals with a lot of stress that is inflicted upon him that is unwarranted and unnecessary.”
While the lawsuit cites several examples of alleged anti-Hispanic behavior aimed at Plana, there are no specific examples of anti-gay bias. Williams, the owner of John R. Williams & Associates in New Haven, said “I am limited to what is contained in the complaint,” when asked about anti-gay bias.
The lawsuit comes two months after the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity at the Treasury Department ruled against Plana, saying he did not meet the burden of proof to substantiate his claims.
The lawsuit claims Plana was disciplined for not properly using an Interactive Tax Assistant tool, which is required when providing tax law assistant to taxpayers. “Others in his position were not disciplined if they did not use the [tool] and all of them but the plaintiff, in fact, were given training in its use,” the lawsuit claims.
The complaint also alleges Plana and another Hispanic employee in the working group had their work schedule changed without warning. There are only two employees of Hispanic descent in the group, Williams said.
The lawsuit also claims supervisors made fun of Plana’s accent on three occasions. In addition, Plana was accused of being absent without leave from work twice when it was unavoidable. “No other non-Hispanic employee in his unit ever has been disciplined [for being late to work] although it is not an uncommon occurrence.”
Plana claims he suffers from anxiety, loss of sleep and emotional distress because of the hostile working environment.
Williams is seeking compensatory damages, but declined to say how much.
“He has asked to be transferred, so far they have refused,” Williams said. “For his particular assignment, he’d have to go to another state. He is willing to do that.”
The lawsuit came the same day of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Title VII of the Civil Rights Act covers discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Williams said the timing of the cases was coincidental.
The Treasury Department did not responded to a request for comment.
The case will be heard in front of U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden in Bridgeport.