Same-sex couple files discrimination suit against Columbus Urban League

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Two Columbus women say a local organization aimed at ending discrimination, fired them for being gay.

The couple worked at the Columbus Urban League and says shortly after management learned they were dating, they were both fired.

Wednesday they filed a federal discrimination lawsuit.

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The Urban League calls the allegations "bogus" and "absurd."

Joselyn Parker and Chyna Mitchell say within three weeks of coming out at work as a couple last May, everything changed.

Parker was fired, and Mitchell was suspended and fired three months later.

"We are specifically alleging that the Columbus Urban League fired Chyna Mitchell and Joselyn Parker based solely on their sexual orientation," said attorney Raphael Davis-Williams.

"I went into a place where I thought I'd be safe. And I wasn't," said Parker. "I was exposed to some of the of the most hate I've ever experienced in my life."

"The people I thought I had built great friendships with, inside and outside of work were told they couldn't speak to me, and I was isolated to this cubicle," said Mitchell. "And it really devastated me. And it was humiliating."

Urban League Attorney Christina Corl says both women were fired for performance and honesty issues.

She says this isn't about discrimination, but a violation of policy:

"It's the same policy that applies to everyone. It applies to not just romantic relationships- it applies to blood relatives as well. That policy is that the employees that are engaged in the relationship cannot be in a job position by which they influence the employment of the other. Ms. Mitchell was a part of the Columbus Urban League's executive team, and made decisions regarding the employment of all employees at the Urban League, including her girlfriend."

"The problem that they have," countered Davis-Williams, "is that they had someone who was also on the executive team that was also dating a subordinate, even giving directives to that subordinate. Not a problem with that, because they were an opposite-sex couple."
"One of our missions is to eliminate discrimination," said Corl. "So it's particularly insulting that we would be accused of this type of discrimination when there's just absolutely no facts to support the claims."

The Urban League says it hired an independent investigator to look into the matter, and that investigator found no discrimination.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also declined to act on the women's claims.

Read the suit: Mitchell | Parker

Read Urban League response to previous complaints: Mitchell | Parker