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UPDATE: Jury Deliberating in Charleston Discrimination Case

UPDATE 11/16/12 @ 12:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A discrimination case involving a community center in Charleston is now in the hands of a jury.

Jessica Hudson says she was hired as the Executive Director at the Bob Burdette Center, but the same day -- she was fired.

Hudson says it was because she's gay.

The Burdette Center says she wasn't qualified for the job.

The trial lasted about two weeks.

The jury has been deliberating since Thursday.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 11/13/12 @ 6:25 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A woman hired to help children, only to have the job taken away hours later, is now telling her side of the story.

In court Tuesday, Jessica Hudson described being executive director at the Bob Burdette Center as her dream job.

However, hours after she got the offer, it was taken away.

Hudson is suing the Bob Burdette Center and several of its board members on the grounds of sexual orientation discrimination.

She says the same day she accepted the job, a board member contacted her and said she misrepresented herself on her resume and in the interview.

Hudson says she was told her church membership and her education status were not accurate. She says she truthful about everything.

Hudson says she was later told by a former board member that the real reason was because according to her Facebook relationship status -- she's gay.

The Bob Burdette Center then went on to say the position requires a bachelor's degree, which Hudson doesn't have.

Hudson says she wasn't made aware of that requirement and that she knew she was the perfect person for the job.

"You see kids that are hungry and dirty and don't get the love and attention they deserve," Hudson said. "To be a part of something like that, I really feel that's why God put me on this earth."

Dr. Clifford Holly, an economics professor at West Virginia University, also testified, saying Hudson lost more than $10,000 in wages because of this situation.

However, she does now have a job that pays more than that position.

A statement from the woman hired to replace Hudson also was read. That woman says she was told by a board member that when they learned Hudson was in a homosexual relationship, they decided she "did not need to be the face of the Bob Burdette Center."

This marks the second week of the trial. Hudson will take the stand again Wednesday morning.



UPDATE 10/17/12 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A woman fired from her job before she even started is claiming the organization discriminated against her, but the organization says that's not the case.

Jessica Hudson gave up her job to accept the executive director position at the Bob Burdette Center, which helps children. Days later, the Burdette Center rescinded the offer.

There’s now a lot of debate about why she was terminated and whether or not it was legal.

“It caused them concern obviously because the Bob Burdette Center offers after school programs to at-risk kids in three Baptist churches on Charleston’s West Side,” David Mincer, the Burdette Center’s attorney, said.

Board members worried that the churches would no longer allow the center to use their buildings when they learned about Hudson's sexual orientation. Hudson claims she was fired because of her Facebook relationship status.

“The board appeared only to know she was in a relationship with another woman, right? They never asked her about it before they fired her, right?” Kanawha County Circuit Judge Carrie Webster asked Mincer.

“That's right, judge,” Mincer replied.

“She sent a resume in and said, ‘Here are my qualifications.’ They looked at it and they said, ‘We may have a winner,’ ” Ricklin Brown, Hudson’s attorney, said.

But after the rush to hire her, the Burdette Center claims it then learned that Hudson wasn't qualified for the job.

“She knew a bachelor's degree was required. She didn't have ties with Charleston Young Professionals. She was not a co-chair of a board placement committee, which didn't exist,” Mincer said.

Following Hudson’s termination, the city of Charleston pulled funding from the Burdette Center because sexual orientation discrimination goes against a city ordinance.

The Burdette Center says state law trumps that ordinance, and believes the case should be thrown out.

No decisions were made in court Wednesday about where the case goes from here.



ORIGINAL STORY 11/30/11
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A discrimination debate is brewing in Charleston. A woman says she was fired from a new job because of board members who thought she was gay.

Helping children is what the Bob Burdette Center is all about -- giving them activities to do after school. But now it’s on the receiving end of some serious trouble.

It’s now dealing with a lawsuit and will not be receiving thousands of dollars from the city.

Jessica Hudson filed a complaint of discrimination. She was hired as the executive director. Before she even started the job, though, the center fired her.

“The board determined that I was a lesbian based on my Facebook page,” Hudson stated in the complaint.

She claims they held an emergency meeting to discuss her sexuality, but never even approached her about it. Since all of this happened, two board members have resigned. In the complaint, Hudson states it’s in whole or in part to protest her termination.

“When it comes to violating people's rights because of their sexual preference, the city of Charleston stands firm,” Mayor Danny Jones said.

The city was ready to hand over $13,500 in grant money to the center, but that’s not the plan now.

“Once we found out this happened; because it violates our ordinances, we had to stop that money,” Jones said.

WSAZ tried contacting the Bob Burdette Center for comment, but it was closed Wednesday.

It is clear, though, that the center is fighting back. A hearing to dismiss Hudson’s lawsuit is set for Thursday.

Hudson's attorney, Ricklin Brown, said she is able to return to her old job and that if the Bob Burdette Center does give her the position back, he doesn't think she will accept it.

Brown said the lawsuit is more about setting a precedent to make sure this type of discrimination doesn't happen again.


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