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MAN SAYS WALL STREET FIRM FIRED HIM FOR BEING GAY
New York Daily News, June 15, 1998

On the heels of one high-profile sexual discrimination cases on Wall Street comes what experts say is the first discrimination suit by a gay investment banker charging he was given the boot because of his sexual orientation.

Joe Daniel, a 35-year-old graduate of Harvard and Yale, charges Dresdner Bank discriminated against him and ultimately fired him because he was gay. He's seeking $75 million in damages.

Dresdner counters that the case has no merit. The large German bank also says that, since Daniel was employed in its securities division, any dispute should be handled through mandatory arbitration, as called for in brokerage industry regulations.

Last week, in a move both sides claimed as victory, a federal district judge in Manhattan ruled against Dresdner's motion to immediately dismiss the case, but gave the two combatants the summer to show why the dispute should be heard in court.

Daniel will get some backing on the political side tomorrow at a news conference with City Councilman Tom Duane, who is gay, said Daniel's attorney, Madeline Lee Bryer.

Whatever the outcome, the lawsuit's existence appears to be a first: No other gay Wall Streeter has publicly claimed discrimination, according to employment attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Wall Street is a very macho environment," said Cliff Palefsky, who heads the National Employment Lawyers Association. "I would not think it is a very friendly place for gay people, and I would think that those who are gay are not quick to be public about it."

In June 1996, Daniel said, the firm offered to promote him to vice president, going so far as to print new business cards and circulate a memo announcing the news. But after learning of his homosexuality, he alleges, they reneged.

Daniel said he can recall the moment clearly, one Monday afternoon in the summer of 1996, when a colleague, noting his sunburn, asked where he'd spent the weekend. After much hesitation, Daniel said, he revealed that he had been at the largely gay resort town of Fire Island Pines.

"His mouth hit the floor. It was obvious he knew what it meant," Daniel said. "Frankly, I wouldn't have said Fire Island Pines if I could have thought of a straight community name."

From that point, he claims, everything changed.

In April 1997 seven days after he requested that gay employes get the same health benefits as straight ones he alleges he was terminated in a restructuring that affected only him.

That's untrue, Dresdner countered in court papers, contending Daniel who was paid $70,000 a year plus a $35,000 bonus already was out of the closet at work, and that the restructuring had nothing to do with his sexual orientation.

"This company does not practice nor condone discrimination against employes, including on the basis of sexual orientation," Dresdner spokesman Jon Hartzell said.

Regardless of the outcome, the case will shine a spotlight on Wall Street's treatment of gays and lesbians just as the recent Boom Boom Room case against Smith Barney raised the issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

Those cases also began to chip away at mandatory arbitration rules in which brokerage employes are required to sign away their rights to bring discrimination claims in court in order to get hired.

For Daniel, who came to New York from a farm in rural Georgia with high hopes, the personal cost has been high. Since losing his job, he said, he's papered Wall Street with more than 100 resumes. To no avail.

"They've ruined my career," he said. "I haven't been able to get a job as a dog catcher, quite frankly."

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.


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