Calling Gay People "Cupcake" Is Offensive -- As MTA's Learning The Hard (Litigious) Way *UPDATED*
*UPDATE: Click here to see MTA's response to Jenkins' allegations.
Reginald Jenkins, a former coach cleaner for the Metro-North Railroad, is described by his attorney as a "proud gay man." So, when he claims some of his co-workers started shouting "kill them faggots dead" while shuttling people to and from last year's Gay Pride Parade, he didn't find it nearly as amusing as some of his colleagues. When his foreman allegedly spent the rest of that day calling him "cupcake," Jenkins claims he became "physically ill" from the stress it caused.
"It was extremely disconcerting to be surrounded by co-workers yelling about killing gay people," Jenkins says. "I am proud of who I am, but I know how hostile people can be. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever done to experience this and feel like it was to dangerous to speak up."
Jenkins has since spoken up -- he's currently suing the MTA for $1.5 million.
According to Jenkins, on June 26, of last year -- the day of the Gay Pride Parade -- he overheard several of his colleagues making derogatory comments about the gay people who'd been riding the train to get to the parade that day.
At one point, Jenkins alleges, some of his co-workers started singing "Batty Boy" -- a Caribbean song glorifying the murder of homosexuals (we'd never heard of it prior to yesterday, but it's pretty sick -- see for yourself by clicking here).
When Jenkins told his supervisor about the offensive comments, he claims he basically was told to lighten up, "cupcake."
Jenkins claims he was then called cupcake by the supervisor for the rest of the day.
By late afternoon, Jenkins claims he'd had it with the abuse, and went to the hospital where he claims he was treated for "severe internal distress."
After he was released from the hospital, Jenkins says he asked MTA if he could take a leave of absence to recover from the stressful day, and requested that the higher-ups investigate the incident.
His leave of absence was approved, but his attorney, Vincent White, says MTA gave him "an unacceptable option" -- he could either have the incident investigated, or he could be promoted. In other words, White says, he could either stay in a hostile work environment as the incident was investigated, or get promoted and let the incident go without anyone getting punished.
Jenkins didn't accept the promotion -- and shortly after was fired for unspecified reasons. He claims he was fired for being gay and trying to stand up for himself in the workplace.
Clearly, Jenkins is a disgruntled former employee -- and there are two sides to every story -- so we called MTA this morning and spoke to a company spokeswoman to give her a chance to refute Jenkins' claims. She told us she needed to get caught up to speed on the case before commenting, and promised to get back to us. We haven't heard back.
"The least they could do is offer a denial -- recognize that what happened was wrong enough to deny," White says.
When asked why he now decided to take the case public, White says it's because he was "shocked at the coldness showed by MTA towards Mr. Jenkins."
We'll let you know if we hear back from the MTA -- check back for updates.
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