A jury in West Virginia’s Kanawha County has concluded that members of a Charleston after school program rescinded a job offer to a woman after they discovered she is a lesbian.
The jurors reached their verdict Friday night after a two-week trial, according to media reports.
They concluded three members of the Bob Burdette Center withdrew the center’s executive director’s job to Jessica Hudson, 34, after a staffer found out through social media she was in a relationship with another woman.
While the jury found that the three board members discriminated against Hudson, it did not award any money.
Hudson said the case was about justice, not money.
“It’s very ironic to me because, through this whole thing, there’s been this talk of not wanting me to be the face of an organization,” Hudson said after the jury read the verdict. “I’ve, through this, become the face of something much bigger than that.”
A lawyer for the board did not comment.
Hudson applied for the after-school program’s vacant executive director position last year. She had two interviews with the board members, who agreed to hire her.
After she accepted the position and after she quit her own job, one of the board members withdrew the offer and accused her of lying on her resume. She learned through another board member, who resigned amid the controversy, that the three board members were concerned that the “face of the organization” would be a lesbian, according to trial testimony.
The jurors found that the center’s board did not discriminate against Hudson based on gender stereotypes and that they were not liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Individually, two other board members were absolved of all allegations in the lawsuit.
The three board members who discriminated against the Charleston woman are Norm Cannada, the Rev. Ron Stoner and Sam Sommerville, the board’s president.
“For anybody out there living in fear, just be who you are,” she said. “I think this is the beginning of a change, the beginning of a new day.”