The owner of a Mexican restaurant in New York City got a seriousslapdown from a state appellate court over his treatment of alesbian chef.

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As reported in the publication LBGTQNation,Gloria's Tribecamex and its owner, Edward Globokar, wereordered to pay Mirella Salemi $1.6 million in damages.

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The case rests upon incidents that occurred between 2004 and2007 at another Mexican-themed restaurant owned by the defendantswhere Salemi was employed. Salemi, the publication said, claimedshe was forced to attend weekly prayer meetings at work wherehomosexuality was described as sinful.

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“At these meetings, Globokar would repeatedly call homosexualitya sin, and say that ‘gay people’ were ‘going to go to hell,’” thepublication reported.

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Salemi sued, claiming discrimination. A lower court awarded her$1.6 million in late 2012. The defendants appealed, and lost at theappellate level, where the verdict and the amount of the award wereupheld last month.

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The publication said that Globokar invoked his freedom ofreligion rights under the First Amendment as his defense, but thecourt turned him down.

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“The trial court properly protected Globokar’s First Amendmentrights by instructing the jury that he had a right to express hisreligious beliefs and practice religion, providing that he does notdiscriminate against his employees based on religion or sexualorientation,” the justices wrote.

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“Given the extensive evidence of defendants’ discriminatoryconduct, we do not find that the punitive damages award was grosslyexcessive,” the appellate court concluded.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.