CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Kanawha County Circuit Judge Carrie Webster denied a motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit against a West Side community center Thursday.
Barring any settlements, the case of Jessica A. Hudson versus the Bob Burdette Center is scheduled to go to trial on Nov. 7. Jury selection is scheduled for Nov. 5.
Hudson, 34, alleges the center rescinded an offer to hire her as the executive director because board members believed she was a lesbian. She is seeking punitive damages.
Webster dismissed the count of discrimination based on sexual orientation, saying that sexual orientation is not a protected class under the state Human Rights Act.
However, she also ruled there were sufficient facts for the case to go to jury based on the allegations of discrimination based on gender stereotyping. Jurors will also hear the count that the Bob Burdette Center violated public policy by firing Hudson.
Charleston has a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The count that the center intentionally caused Hudson emotional distress by firing her will also go to the jury.
Rick Brown, Hudson's attorney, said he was "pleased" with Webster's ruling, despite the ruling that sexual orientation is not protected under state law.
"And in fact, it is not," he said. "But we've been arguing all along that this is about gender discrimination based on gender stereotyping."
"The court has found that the West Virginia Human Rights Act does not specifically recognize or include sexual orientation as a protected class," Brown added. "But gender stereotyping is actionable under Human Rights Act."
Brown has been arguing that Hudson was fired because she did not fit into the board members' idea of how a woman should act. Brown has argued that the Bob Burdette Center fired Hudson because a woman dating another woman does not fit into their beliefs of how a female should act.
The center hired Hudson to fill the executive director's position in the summer of 2011.
However, a few days after she accepted the position and turned in her two-week notice to her previous employer, two board members called to tell her the offer had been rescinded, according to a complaint filed at the Kanawha County Circuit Clerk's office.
Bob Burdette Center attorney David Mincer argued in an Oct. 17 hearing on the motion to dismiss that Hudson was fired because she misrepresented herself on her resume and during an interview.
Mincer also argued that Hudson was not fired because the board perceived that she was a lesbian.