(Editor’s note: Article contains graphic language.)
A Pennsylvania trucking company with roughly 900 trucks has been sued by a former driver who alleges he was dismissed because he is gay.
Vincent Ambrosy-Wagner filed suit against Smith Transport of Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, last week in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Ambrosy-Wagner makes two primary charges in the suit: that he was harassed because of his sexuality and that he was fired because he reported the harassment, but with the dismissal blamed on a safety violation that Ambrosy-Wagner says he didn’t commit.
Ambrosy-Wagner was hired by Smith in September 2019. According to the lawsuit, he was paid $1,250 per week for what he called a “four and three” work schedule, where he would work four days and be off for three.
His sexuality was revealed early on in his tenure with the company. Ambrosy-Wagner was asked to list his emergency contact for his HR records, and he listed a man, identifying him as “boyfriend” under the relationship category.
“From the start of his employment, Plaintiff was disliked by his supervisor, Mr. Dominic Fredo,” the suit says. The newly hired driver, according to the suit, was told he had “a s—– attitude” and “wouldn’t last long” at Smith.
“This was jarring to plaintiff, as he had done absolutely nothing to indicate that he was anything other than a pleasant person and a hard worker,” the lawsuit says. “Additionally, when he began the training system, Plaintiff was exposed to a number of more tenured employees who indicated to him, on multiple occasions, that he was unwelcome.”
The specifics in the lawsuit only spell out one particular instance in which Ambrosy-Wagner’s sexuality was brought up by co-workers or his manager. A co-worker named Kenneth Collins “informed [Ambrosy-Wagner] that his time with the company was destined to be short, as everyone disliked new people,” the lawsuit says. But beyond that, the lawsuit says that Collins “ranted to [Ambrosy-Wagner] during a training exercise about how much he hated gay individuals. He then proudly proclaimed that he was racist, prejudice (sic) and bigoted.”
At that point, Ambrosy-Wagner reported the incident to Fredo, his manager, whose response was “whatever,” according to the lawsuit.
While the lawsuit does not spell out Ambrosy-Wagner’s background, it does describe him as having “numerous years” of experience in the industry.
The incident that led to his dismissal started with a complaint by Collins to Ambrosy-Wagner’s manager at the time, Oscar Dozer. It was just two months after he began, on Nov. 19, 2019.
Collins said Ambrosy-Wagner was not wearing safety hearing protection. His defense is that he was wearing it, but it was cold and they were not visible under layers of clothing. According to the lawsuit, the text from Dozer, spurred by Collins’ complaint, said: “If you get out of that f—— truck again without ear plugs in I am sending you back to the yard and you can explain … why I had to take a truck off the schedule.”
A follow-up text, according to the suit, was written in pretty much the same vein.
What Ambrosy-Wagner says did happen subsequently is that he wasn’t called in to work. A text message would serve as a dispatch notice. Despite the fact that he was scheduled for Nov. 20 and 21, Ambrosy-Wagner received no notices for those days.
On Nov. 25, Ambrosy-Wagner was called in, was told he was suspended, tried to give his side of the story and instead was terminated. Another attempt to give his side of the story was greeted with a response from Fredo: “I don’t give a s—, you’re f—— fired.”
The suit says that as a gay man, Ambrosy-Wagner is a member of a protected class. The “prima facie” case for discrmination rests in the report of Collins’ actions toward him and his termination soon after he reported them to the company’s HR department, according to the suit.
The dismissal and other instances are said by the lawsuit to be “adverse action(s).” “A clear causal link has been established between Plaintiff’s engagement in a protected activity and the Defendant’s adverse action,” the lawsuit charges.
There are three counts in the lawsuit, all of them charging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
An email to Smith was not responded to by publication time.