Fire Alarm

A gay employee says the abuse ended only with his ouster

At work guys grabbed his butt, crotch and shoulders, says Chris Boone. Co-workers told him to drop to his knees and do what he does best. "Give me the best blow job of your life," he remembers them saying. They brought Vaseline.

Boone, 26, was an oil-spill technician at Garner Environmental Services Inc. making $600 to $1,800 a week. He started as a part-time worker pulling full-time shifts in the summer of '97. When he was elevated to full-time status in February '98, things started getting bad.

Co-workers slashed his tires, keyed his truck, smashed the windows and left notes saying, "Faggots like you shouldn't be alive," he says.

They sent him six Bibles all underscoring that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Other notes told him he's going to burn in hell.

Neil Overstreet, Lynn Garner's son-in-law, who was training to take over the 18-year-old business, told Boone that people like him shouldn't work for Garner, Boone says. Twice a day Overstreet berated him for being gay. Boone says dialogues went like this:

Overstreet: This is a goddamned redneck company, not a goddamned queensville. We don't hire queens; we don't hire niggers."

Boone: "You hired me."
Overstreet: "We didn't know. We don't want rainbows."
On job sites, Boone says, he was treated like he didn't have a dick. "We can't let the fag do that -- he'll get dirty. Honey, why don't you go put on a dress and give us something to look at?"

In October Boone hired an attorney.

"I was shocked," says Gregg Rosenberg, a labor and employment lawyer, describing the first time he heard Boone's allegations. "And I'm never shocked. I've been disgusted, but I've never been shocked."

Boone showed him an October 6 company memo from Jess Carballo, the health and safety inspector, addressed to Lynn Garner and Boone's supervisor. It said Carballo met with Boone, which Boone denies. It also said, "Special care should be given when she is out on job sites where customers can see her, so not to cause problems with company and customers relationship. Cause We have a Homosexual with us....We should work on Mr. Boone's short employment here."

Company officials say the memo is bogus and Boone's allegations are products of his imagination. But Boone has more than stories and a memo -- he has former co-worker Michael G. Franscell as a witness.

Franscell stated in an affidavit that he'd seen the harassment "instigated and encouraged by the supervisors of Garner on a daily basis."

"Somebody without a dog in the hunt came to back him up right from the start," Rosenberg says. "He came into the office and put his balls on the line in deference to doing what's right."

Franscell's affidavit states that on December 2, a supervisor pulled out a pornographic book and said he was going to "convert Chris Boone's 'faggoty ass' and show him what an American male really needs: 'pussy.' "

Franscell said that Overstreet instructed another employee to drive to the airport and pick up "a blond woman with huge tits." He said she "would be wearing a dress with ruffles around her shoulders and that she was extremely good-looking." When the guy asked the name of the woman, Overstreet said it was Chris Boone returning from a business trip. The guy responded, "I fucking hate that faggoty-ass motherfucker....Fuck sugar booty; let him walk back."

"These are only a few of the hundreds of incidents of abuse and disparaging treatment I have witnessed occur toward Chris Boone at Garner," the affidavit states.

Boone says he didn't want a dime from the company; he just wanted the harassment to stop. He liked his job, he was good at his job -- he didn't like what they were saying and doing to him.

His discrimination claim from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was delivered to Garner on February 15.

Boone says he was fired that morning.

Boone's mother says it might be different if he were a flaming homosexual parading around in dresses and wigs, but that's not who he is. He's not an overtly gay guy, so she can't understand why people were harassing her son.

"I'm sure you know the difference between the top and the bottom, and Christopher is the top," says Susie Boone. "He can throw those little hands, but he can be very straight."

Which is what Boone always tried to be at the office. He created girlfriends by bringing female friends to work. They hugged, touched and talked, so folks would think they were "together."

But a few people's gaydar still went off. He says a company official followed him to JR.'s, a gay bar. And out of the office closet he came. His co-workers began taunting him. "Sugar, look at you," he remembers his supervisor telling him. "Look at your hair; you're all messy and dirty."

That was the first time Boone lost it. "You goddamned stupid son of a bitch," Boone remembers yelling. "There's no difference between me and you....I have an attorney, and all this is going to do is fry your ass."

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