Gay former judge sues Hamilton County for discrimination

A former magistrate judge has filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Hamilton County and key members of Juvenile Court, claiming two high-ranking coworkers discriminated against her because she is gay, reports the Times-Free Press.

The lawsuit alleges that, on a number of occasions, Judge Rob Philyaw and administrator Sam Mairs created a hostile work environment for Elizabeth Gentzler by making homophobic jokes, avoiding her ideas and suggestions, and transferring her to a different assignment without explanation, all of which ended in her September 2014 termination.

…County officials offered no statement but denied the allegations.

No trial date has been set, said Stuart James, one of Gentzler’s attorneys. The defense is waiting on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to wrap up its investigation and release a report, James said. The lawsuit, originally filed in Hamilton County to preserve its state claims, since has been moved to federal court, he added.

From August 2011 onward, Gentzler reported to Judge Suzanne Bailey, who retired April 30, 2013. Gentzler said her problems began around the time Philyaw took her place in spring 2013.

After the Hamilton County Commission appointed Philyaw in April, he asked each magistrate to type up something about themselves, to get to know them better, the lawsuit says.

Gentzler, who is openly gay and has a partner, included that information in the letter to Philyaw.

Later that month, before he was sworn in as judge, Philyaw invited all the magistrates to a Leadership Prayer Breakfast at the Chattanooga Convention Center — all the magistrates except Gentzler, the lawsuit alleges.