Dallas Arboretum's A Tasteful Place (Photo by Danny Fulgencio).

Dallas Arboretum’s A Tasteful Place (Photo by Danny Fulgencio).

A second former employee of the Dallas Arboretum is alleging discrimination against the botanic garden.

Legal firm Lambda Legal filed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in late March on behalf of David Jeffcoat, a former employee of the Arboretum, who says in the complaint the garden discriminated against him on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation.

In addition to the EEOC complaint, Lambda Legal filed a Human Relations Discrimination Complaint with the City of Dallas, the firm says.

Another former employee filed a discrimination complaint against the Arboretum in November 2021.

Here is a statement from the Dallas Arboretum:

“The Arboretum is aware of a Charge of Discrimination posted on the Lambda Legal website regarding a former employee. However, the Arboretum has not been notified by Lambda Legal or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (‘EEOC’) that the Charge of Discrimination was filed last week.

“The Arboretum takes all allegations of discrimination very seriously, including allegations of sexual orientation discrimination. The Arboretum respects the LGBTQ+ community, and is celebrating Pride Month with Pride in Bloom on June 11, 2022.

“We are sad that an employee would feel they had been treated unfairly. We will thoroughly investigate the allegations made by the former employee. The Arboretum does not comment on confidential personnel matters.”

Jeffcoat says in the EEOC filing that the Arboretum fired him because “he is a gay, lives with a man, and is partnered with a man.” View the filing here.

He was hired as a gate attendant in September 2014 and continued in that role until June 2021, when he was hired as the operations supervisor over the Main Garden and the Rory Meyers Children’s Garden, according to the complaint.

In October 2021, Jeffcoat told his supervisor Joanne Genuardi that he had been exposed to COVID-19 by his male “partner.” That was the first time Jeffcoat had ever shared with an Arboretum manager that he lived with another man, according to the complaint.

After Jeffcoat reported he had been exposed, Genuardi and Elspeth Nelson, the vice president of facility operations, began treating him differently, he says in the complaint. They started giving him back-to-back shifts, which meant he could work 8 a.m.-11 p.m. or midnight in one day and have to be back to work by 8 a.m. the next day.

In late October, Jeffcoat was given one day to set up the Christmas Village decorations. Jeffcoat believed he had followed the instructions, but Nelson saw a bag of wall decorations on the floor in one of the houses. She started yelling and cursing at Jeffcoat in front of about 10 employees, according to the complaint.

Jeffcoat says in the complaint Nelson and Genuardi made his job more difficult overall and didn’t provide him with the training and support they said they would when he was promoted to operations supervisor.

In November, the Arboretum hired someone to take over as operations supervisor of the Main Garden, without giving Jeffcoat any notice, according to the complaint. On Jan. 12, 2022, Genuardi gave Jeffcoat a “Notice of Performance Improvement Plan,” which listed incidents that needed improvement. The notice said Genuardi had talked with Jeffcoat about the incidents, but Jeffcoat had heard about only one of them, according to the complaint. One of the allegations, that he climbed through the ceiling to enter the HR Director’s office without consent, was “false and completely misconstrued,” Jeffcoat says in the complaint.

On Feb. 7, 2022, Jeffcoat slipped and fell on the ice. The Arboretum directed Jeffcoat to a health provider, who confirmed that Jeffcoat had been injured. He was prescribed medication and physical therapy. The next day, Jeffcoat woke up in pain and told Genuardi he would not be at work. On Wednesday, Jeffcoat arrived at work around lunchtime, after his physical therapy appointment, which he had told Genuardi about ahead of time, according to the complaint. That afternoon, Genuardi fired Jeffcoat.

Jeffcoat received a letter from the Arboretum dated Feb. 10. It said he was fired due to his “failure to comply and complete the tasks listed in your performance improvement plan given on January 12, 2022,” according to the complaint.

“I want to see the Arboretum treat all of its employees, regardless of who they are, with dignity, respect, understanding and acceptance,” Jeffcoat says in this article.


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