As the National Urban League conference continues in Columbus this week, two former employees of its Columbus chapter have filed a federal lawsuit against the group.
Joselyn Parker and Chyna Mitchell say they disclosed their relationship to the Columbus Urban League in the spring of last year. They say at the time, the chapter's human resources told them they were within company policy. But three weeks later, Parker was fired and Mitchell was suspended on the same day.
Mitchell says her cell phone, laptop and office were taken away, her work responsibilties were changed, she was barred from doing external relations, and eventually she was fired.
Parker and Mitchell say that, given that intra-office heterosexual relationships existed without comment, their firings were rooted in homophobia.
Parker says the mission of the Urban League makes that sting even worse.
"That's devastating enough, but it is a totally different thing when you're discriminated against from an organization that is built on the foundation of supporting people in their civil rights,” Parker says.
Their lawyer says that sexual orientation falls under "sex" in Title VII, the federal law that prohibits employment discrimination.
Stephanie Hightower, the president and CEO of the Columbus Urban League, told The Columbus Dispatch that both women were let go for “performance and policy violations.”