Marc Fetzer wants his day in court. Yesterday, he and his attorney told a press conference they did not get it. Attorney George Castrataro hosted a forum to brief the community on a case he was handling for a Broward County school teacher, Marc Fetzer, who had sued the school district for claims of wrongful LGBT discrimination.
Castrataro and his client held an informational session at the Pride Center at Equality Park to brief the community members about the status of Fetzer's case. Fetzer himself explained that his goal is to bring about change at the local level, in order for other LGBT people "to not experience discrimination in the workplace.”
Fetzer urged everyone "to know the importance of voting" in all local and national elections. Additionally, he asked for everyone to get involved with organizations "like Equality Florida; who stand and fight for the rights of all LGBT Florida residents."
Marc Fetzer’s first claims against the school board were made in 2014, when he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint. While those did not prevail, he received “a right to sue “ letter, eventually retaining George Castrataro’s firm as his counsel.
On June 1, 2016, Castrataro filed against the School Board in Broward Circuit Court, alleging that Fetzer had been illegally discriminated against. Castrataro’s lawsuit alleged his client was bullied, amongst other things, with the school board not acting responsively or responsibly to protect him.
In addition, Fetzer’s lawsuit alleged that he encountered inappropriate acts of discrimination against him that violated policies mandated within the Broward County School District. Over the years, the school district has heralded its own pro LGBT and anti-discrimination policies.
Fetzer’s case, however, was dismissed earlier this year when lawyers for the school board successfully argued Florida state law does not recognize sexual orientation as a protected class. They won a pre trial motion known as 'summary judgment, claiming that Fetzer’s argument does not meet the legal threshold to proceed in court.
"No Florida court has extended the protections under the Florida Civil Rights Act to sexual orientation, and the Legislature has repeatedly chosen not to extend workplace protection to the LGBTQ community,” stated Eugene Pettis, one of the school board’s attorneys. Castrataro disagreed, and said he is considering appealing the ruling. The legal issue being debated is whether the Florida Civil Rights Act applies to the teacher’s claim.
“We think it does,” Castrataro said. The School Board prevailed, saying it does not.
"Regretfully, the motion for summary judgment was granted, effectively ending the case with no argument as to the merits.”, Castrataro acknowledged, adding instead that “We think that my client was wrongfully bullied and abused because of his LGBT status. We want the facts heard.”
Ultimately, Castrataro seeks a ruling on the merits of his claim, arguing that the circuit court made the wrong decision. First, he can ask for a rehearing of his arguments in Broward Circuit Court. After that, Castrataro’s next forum would be to take an appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach, which may review decisions of the circuit court.