(New York, August 9, 2011) - Following Lambda Legal's demand letter to Short Line Bus Company on behalf of Ari Gold, who was harassed by a driver for holding his boyfriend's hand, Short Line Bus Company has confirmed it has appropriately disciplined the driver and pledged to conduct antidiscrimination training for all the company's drivers.
"Lambda Legal is always prepared to go to the courts when members of the LGBT community face discrimination, but we're pleased when it doesn't have to come to that," said Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda Legal's Deputy Legal Director. "We congratulate Short Line Bus Company for doing the right thing and training all drivers to prevent discrimination. We hope the company is a model for other businesses. Short Line's swift and serious response shows this company knows that doing the right thing is also good business."
On Sunday, July 10, Ari Gold and his boyfriend boarded a Short Line bus travelling from the New York Port Authority to Monticello, New York. They were travelling to the Catskills to spend time with Mr. Gold's parents. They took the front seat, looking forward to enjoying the view of the mountains during their trip. The two men sat next to each other. Mr. Gold had his leg on his boyfriend's knee, each using earbuds to listen to music together on the same mobile player, at times linked arm-in-arm or holding hands. The trip began uneventfully, but after a switch in drivers, the new driver of the bus pulled to the side of the highway, stopped the bus, and told Mr. Gold that the way in which he and his boyfriend were sitting made him "uncomfortable," and that they should move to the back of the bus. Mr. Gold explained that they politely but firmly refused. The bus driver resumed driving, but summoned law enforcement on his mobile phone, and shortly thereafter pulled the bus to a stop for a second time, to await the arrival of New York state troopers. A trooper instructed the driver that the couple was not acting illegally, and advised the driver to continue along the route.
On July 14, Lambda Legal wrote to the president of Short Line Bus Company, George Grieve, informing him that the treatment of Gold and his boyfriend violates the laws of New York City, New York State, and New Jersey (where Short Line has its corporate office). Lambda Legal requested that the driver be appropriately disciplined and that policies and training be implemented to educate employees on nondiscrimination laws. Gold also requested an apology and a refund of the price of the tickets. Short Line Bus Company has agreed to all of these demands.
After several telephone and email exchanges, on August 5, Lambda Legal received both oral and written confirmation from Short Line Bus Company of measures it has committed to taking throughout the company to address discrimination. The company reiterated its commitment to nondiscrimination laws and said that the driver has been disciplined and would also receive sensitivity training and training on nondiscrimination laws. The company will also mandate further antidiscrimination training for all its drivers, including annual "refreshers." Lambda Legal is providing input on the training plan. The company also apologized for the behavior Mr. Gold and his boyfriend experienced, and will refund the cost of their tickets.
"I am so grateful to Lambda Legal for helping me use my platform as a singer/songwriter and activist to bring attention to an issue that happens way too often to people whose voices don't get heard enough. I am even more pleased that something that was initially very negative to experience has turned into something positive because of the actions taken by Short Line Bus Company to ensure that something like this will not happen again. I hope more corporations will follow suit. Maybe in the future all corporations will be held responsible for implementing their own sensitivity/harassment training and not wait for another person's civil rights to be violated," said Ari Gold.
Read the resolution letter: http://data.lambdalegal.org/in-court/downloads/ltr_ny_20110809_ari-gold-shortline-bus.html
Read the demand letter: http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/ltr_ny_20110714_ari-gold-shortline-bus.html
Hayley Gorenberg, Deputy Legal Director, is handling the matter for Lambda Legal.