A state prison guard in Fayette County, Pennsylvania has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming he was discriminated against after coworkers accused him of being homosexual. John J. Yanik Jr. of South Union filed the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. A corrections officer at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette in Luzerne, Yanik is claiming gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
Yanik’s attorney, Herbert A. Terrell of McMurray, on Monday said Yanik is alleging his coworkers sexually harassed him based on their perception of his sexual preference.
“He’s alleging injury because he was harassed, and disrespected, because of a perception that he’s of a different persuasion,” Terrell said.
In the lawsuit, Yanik alleges coworkers openly referred to him as a homosexual. They allegedly slammed security doors on him and locked him out of his computer.
A male corrections officer, who is not identified in the suit, reportedly started a rumor indicating he had obtained a protection-from-abuse order against Yanik. That rumor fueled speculation that Yanik was in a same-sex relationship, according to the lawsuit.
Yanik alleges coworkers and superiors felt he lacked “masculinity or masculine traits,” according to the lawsuit. At one point, coworkers allegedly “began to insinuate (Yanik) had too feminine a voice while using the staff radio.”
The harassment began shortly after details of Yanik’s personnel file were leaked to management and other staffers. According to the lawsuit, the file includes information about a 1986 arrest involving Yanik, but a search of criminal records for Fayette and nearby counties turned up no record of an arrest.
Terrell yesterday declined to comment on the 1986 arrest.
According to the lawsuit, Yanik disclosed the arrest to an interviewer when he was hired in March 2003, but he was let go in May 2003 for allegedly falsifying his application by not annotating the arrest. He fought the termination and was reinstated in October 2003, according to the lawsuit.
Yanik alleges his superiors did nothing to stop the harassment. Two supervisors were disciplined after an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the lawsuit, but the harassment continued.
The harassment was so severe Yanik took disability leave in 2006, but he was denied benefits “upon the false basis he had not provided adequate medical documentation,” the lawsuit states.
Yanik is seeking an unspecified sum in damages.