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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 4 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 14
New York appeals court upholds employment discrimination judgment
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New York appeals court upholds employment discrimination judgment

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A New York state appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling that a restaurant owner violated the New York City Human Rights Law when he forced his Lesbian chef to attend on-the-job prayer meetings, and told her she was going to hell because of her sexual orientation.

In the original trial before a New York City court, chef Mirella Salemi was awarded $400,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $1.2 million in punitive damages. Her attorney called it 'the largest employment verdict in 2012 in New York.'

Salemi's boss, Edward Globokar, appealed the 2012 decision, alleging he was only exercising his First Amendment free speech rights, but the appeals court dismissed his claim.

'The trial court properly protected Globokar's First Amendment rights by instructing the jury that he had 'a right to express his religious beliefs and practice religion, providing that he does not discriminate against his employees based on religion or sexual orientation,' the three-judge panel of the Appellate Division's First Department wrote.

'Additional evidence demonstrated that as a result of Globokar's improper conduct, plaintiff was retaliated against for objecting to his offensive comments, choosing not to attend workplace prayer meetings and refusing to fire another employee because of his sexual orientation,' the judges concluded.

Consequently, the appeals court upheld the original finding by trial judge Carol Huff, and the monetary award to Salemi.

According to court documents, Globokar was principal owner of Gloria's Tribeca Inc., and Gloria's Tribecamex, which operated a chain of restaurants called Mary Ann's. Salemi worked at one of the restaurants between 2004 and 2007.

In her filing, Salemi complained that Globokar held weekly prayer meetings that were essentially mandatory because the restaurant staff feared they would lose their jobs if they did not attend. At these meetings, which were held behind locked doors, Globokar would repeatedly call homosexuality a sin, and say that 'gay people' were 'going to go to hell.'

Globokar also told Salemi to dress more 'effeminately,' and to marry a man and have children, Salemi's attorney said.

Salemi quit in 2007, and Globokar reportedly no longer owns the restaurant chain.

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