After years of legal fights, a former administrator at New York University has won a $2 million jury award in a case in which he charged the institution with anti-gay bias.
Mark A. Taylor was director of external affairs at NYU's medical school in 1994, when a biography of Leonard Bernstein, by Humphrey Burton, identified Taylor as the last love in the late composer's life. According to Taylor, the book was passed around the office, with passages about him marked. He also said that Peter Ferrara, a colleague, called him a "pansy" and made jokes about his sexuality.
Subsequently, Ferrara was promoted to become Taylor's boss and in 1997, Taylor's job was eliminated. The university attributed the elimination to a reorganization. Taylor sued for job discrimination.
Prior to losing his job, Taylor was "repeatedly humiliated with malicious and petty gossip and no one at NYU stepped in to do anything," said Michael G. O'Neil, his lawyer. "My client went from being well regarded and respected to being a laughingstock."
The jury that heard the case awarded Taylor $300,000 in back pay, $700,000 for lost future pay, and $1 million for his pain and suffering. O'Neil said that Taylor needed the money after finding it difficult to obtain good jobs after he lost his post at NYU.
Taylor was earning $90,000 when his job ended, and in the years since, he has managed to work his salary back up to $70,000, but has had years earning as little as $25,000.
NYU is appealing the decision.
Ferrara left NYU four years ago for Yeshiva University, where he is senior director of communications and public relations. He has strongly denied the allegations made in the lawsuit, and says that not only was he not responsible for Taylor's loss of his job, but that he didn't even know about it until after the fact.
In an e-mail interview, Ferrara said that the jury "in a case of all circumstantial evidence (i.e. interpretation of testimony), decided not to believe anything said by anyone from the NYU defendant side, and took all of 16-20 or so minutes to reach a verdict. You can draw your own conclusions."
He added that the case is "very much like the Rashomon story: Which account of events does one believe and what does personal feeling have to do with how one perceives if a chain of events occurred or not."