Clayton County settles discrimination lawsuit in historic gay rights battle



Clayton County has settled a discrimination lawsuit with a former employee whose firing became the center of the national battle over gay rights in the workplace in the last decade.

The county has agreed to pay Gerald Bostock, a former Clayton child welfare services coordinator, $825,000 to settle a lawsuit he filed against the county alleging he was fired in 2013 because he is gay.

The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and, in a 2020 landmark ruling, the justices voted 6-3 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ+ workers from employment discrimination.

The case was remanded back to the lower courts, where lawyers for Clayton County and Bostock have been working on a settlement in lieu of a trial.

“Words can hardly express how happy I am that this is now over,” Bostock said during a press conference held at the Buckley Beal law firm. “This nine-year journey has been a tremendously long experience for me. It’s taken its toll health-wise, physically, mentally and financially.”

Said attorney Ed Buckley: “We are very pleased with this result. It has been a journey in which (Bostock) has shown extraordinary courage bringing suit against his former employer and litigating it all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Clayton County Commissioners unanimously consented to the settlement payout during a Tuesday night meeting this week.

“The main thing I want us to be aware of is Gerald Bostock is a case that we took all the way to the Supreme Court,” Commissioners Felicia Franklin said during the vote. “I’m glad to hear that we’re going to be done ... so that everybody can move on with their lives, including Mr. Bostock.”

In his lawsuit, Bostock alleged he was fired shortly after he joined Atlanta’s gay softball league, despite having a sterling work record. His former boss, ex-Clayton Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske, however, accused Bostock of misspending court funds and said his dismissal had nothing to do with his orientation.

But in pre-trial testimony and a diary he kept, the former judge admitted he was concerned about Bostock’s outreach to the gay community in Atlanta. In one diary entry, Teske wrote that Bostock was ““buying meals for potential sponsors in Midtown Atlanta — the gay district of Atlanta.”

Teske, who retired last year, also said during testimony his suspicions about Bostock’s alleged misspending were tied to his being gay, and that contributed to his decision to fire him.

Thomas Mew, who also represented Bostock, said it was incredible how a local case in Clayton County led to a history-making ruling. He said it is a foundation of what needs to be done to ensure equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.

“There’s certainly more work to be done,” he said. “Title VII is the touchstone federal anti-discrimination law, but it has its limitations. We need more robust state laws and of course passage of a federal equality act would be of great significance.”

Bostock said the settlement helped him get some of the best sleep he’s had in a long time and he feels more settled and calm. He is happy that his place in history will be that Americans don’t have to fear they will lose their job “because of who they are, how they love or how they identify.

“I did not ask for any of this,” Bostock said. “But I was willing to be the one to stand up and to see this through.”

Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this report