NEW JERSEY–(ENEWSPF)–October 24, 2016
By Mark Joseph Stern
Shortly after Eleazar Andres took a job as a maintenance worker at New Jersey’s Trump National Golf Club in 2014, his life became a living hell. When he told his co-workers that he was gay, Andres became the target of intense homophobic harassment. His co-workers routinely called him “maricón,” “faggot,” and “fag,” and regularly threw rocks and golf balls at him. One of his harassers threw a rock at his head so hard that it sent him to the hospital.
These horrors are alleged in a lawsuit that Andres filed for harassment and discrimination in New Jersey state court. (The case is currently in court-mandated mediation.) But the allegations don’t end there. Rather, Andres’ suit documents a stunning negligence of the persistent harassment by management at the Trump National Golf Club—negligence that enabled further discrimination and ultimately curdled into retaliation when Andres dared to speak out. His complaint is an indictment of the culture of unlawful harassment fostered at one of Trump’s prized properties, a culture quite similar to the atmosphere of sexual harassment that purportedly pervaded some of Trump’s other workplaces.
As Andres’ suit documents, his direct supervisor actually witnessed several incidents of name-calling and physical abuse. Andres also lodged several formal complaints with this supervisor regarding his hostile work environment. The supervisor did nothing to ameliorate the situation. Following his hospitalization for the assault and battery he suffered, Andres spoke to one of the golf course’s managers. The manager said he would take care of the problem. But when Andres asked for information about his attackers for a police report he planned to file, the manager refused. Andres filed the police report anyway and informed management that he no longer felt safe going to work. Management promptly fired him.
Andres is now suing Trump National Golf Club under New Jersey’s robust nondiscrimination law, alleging that he experienced sexual orientation harassment, a hostile work environment based on sexual orientation, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and unlawful retaliation. He is also suing for assault and battery. He argues that the club is liable “for the acts constituting hostile work environment” and “sexual orientation harassment” because it “failed to properly address” his complaints and “failed to implement any preventative or remedial measures to protect against unlawful harassment” and discrimination. Andres then lists a variety of training programs and policies recognized by the courts as effective tools for combatting discrimination.
Rather than implementing these policies, Andres argues, the club displayed “egregious” and “willful indifference” to his ceaseless homophobic harassment, an indifference that allowed the mistreatment to escalate dangerously. Instead of taking “proper corrective action,” the club terminated Andres’ employment “as a result of his complaints of workplace harassment and discrimination”—unlawful retaliation under New Jersey law. Andres also claims that the club is vicariously liable for the assault and battery he suffered at the hands of the club’s employees.
These are deeply alarming charges. Trump’s attorneys deny almost all of them; they do admit that Andres’ co-workers did, indeed, throw rocks at him. As a defense, Trump’s attorneys attempt to blame Andres, arguing that his claim is barred by the Doctrine of Unclean Hands. That means Andres himself is “guilty of inequitable conduct” and is “a wrongdoer with respect to” his own lawsuit—in other words, that Andres somehow fostered or provoked the discrimination against him, or committed some other serious wrongdoing. It is difficult to imagine a more offensive response to a discrimination suit. Judging from legal filings, Trump’s attorneys are not merely gaslighting Andres; they are blaming him for his own harassment.
We already know that a culture of sexual harassment poisoned other Trump properties, that many women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, and that Trump himself has boasted of committing criminal sexual assault. Andres’ lawsuit may not tie directly back to Trump himself, but it does confirm that Trump’s misogynistic beliefs and lax attitudes toward harassment permeate his properties from the top down. The discrimination Andres allegedly suffered may be horrific and shocking. But at this point, we should not be surprised that it occurred—and was allowed to spiral out of control—in a workplace owned by Trump.