ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A lawsuit has been filed against South St. Petersburg’s predominant domestic violence organization called “CASA” (Community Action Stops Abuse.) CASA is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit entity established in 1977. The lawsuit’s Plaintiff is former CASA attorney Daniel Blattner, who successfully secured legal Injunctions for Protections which helped secure safety for CASA’s domestic abuse clients. He brought other domestic violence assistance experience to the organization, as well.
Blattner is a white, 46-year-old attorney of Christian beliefs, who claims that alleged acts of age, sex, disability, and religious discrimination were rallied against him beginning from day one.
Blattner first reported to work on July 17, 2019, and after working two months, relegating to work in the children’s playroom, he was terminated before his 90-day probationary period.
On his first day at work, Blattner was reported by the organization’s public and media relations department to Human Resources for prior Facebook posts that indicated his Christian faith. According to the lawsuit, he was told by HR Director Debbie Doran and Managing Attorney Karen McHugh that there were “immediate concerns” over whether he would be able to objectively serve CASA’s clientele, largely the LGBTQ community. At first, a request was made of Blattner. He must not post anything about CASA on his personal Facebook account because the organization was concerned that having a Christian employee might affect CASA’s large donor base.
However, this was not a written policy in any way, and allegedly CASA’s CEO, Lariana Forsythe, and other employees routinely posted CASA information on their personal social media accounts, including Facebook. Yet, despite Blattner’s compliance with the request, McHugh “continuously and repeatedly harassed” Blattner about whether he could objectively fulfill his work that she and Forsythe hired him to do. The workplace then became a hostile environment. According to Blattner, matters got worse.
According to Blattner, he was denied disability accommodation for chronic neck and back pain. After making a request, he was allegedly told by McHugh that he would not be supplied an appropriate chair – not considered costly – because CASA doesn’t have funds for “these types of things.” Thereafter, she assigned Blattner to a half-day of off-site manual labor with full knowledge that such work would “trigger” his chronic conditions. The lawsuit states both federal and state laws were violated. McHugh’s conduct and decisions continued to cause Blattner concern. Allegedly disregarding Florida statutes and judicial, administrative rules, McHugh, as Managing Attorney, allowed a fairly new paralegal whom she considered “a fragile young woman with two kids,” to ignore or defy instructions and guidance from Blattner. Eventually, he decided to withdraw the paralegal’s access to his Florida E-filing portal, a right given to mentoring attorneys under the rules of The Florida Bar. “I am confronted with a stalemate,” McHugh had explained. “She is irreplaceable.” As well, McHugh allegedly added that Blattner was an older male and the paralegal a younger female. The optics for McHugh, according to Blattner, were not good. Blattner appears to believe that McHugh lacked the ability to execute leadership over a poor-performing young woman due to a lack of objective professionalism. Shortly thereafter, McHugh told the paralegal to cease giving Blattner any support, which breached the employment agreement between Blattner and CASA.
The last allegedly poor decision of CASA’s leadership was either Doran’s or McHugh’s decision to relocate Blattner to a small room that doubled as the children’s playroom. Employees made a variety of remarks, some of which seemed to jeer at Blattner’s plight and middle age, and the fact that he was a man.
On August 23, Blattner was fired without reason. He was allegedly 100% successful in securing injunctive relief for CASA’s clients during his brief tenure. He was also never disciplined or reprimanded regarding his job performance.
Blattner could not be reached for comment, but CASA’s CEO, Lariana Forsythe, returned a call to The Free Press. Asked for her response to Blattner’s allegations, she replied, “We believe these allegations are unmerited and look forward to telling our side of the story through the legal process.” Asked if she believed Christians are capable of performing their work duties professionally without regard to age, sex, or sexual orientation, she said, “That’s an inappropriate question. At CASA, we believe that all people are capable of supporting victims of domestic violence.”
What is not known is if Doran and McHugh share her stated beliefs. Blattner’s attorney is Rainier Regueiro (Remer Georges-Pierre), and could not be reached for comment.