by Mark Reagan
The first complainant under San Antonio's amended non-discrimination ordinance, Matthew Hileman, speaks to media after mediation talks with AT&T ended this week. Photo by Mark Reagan
Exactly one year after San Antonio amended its non-discrimination ordinance, complainant Matthew Hileman released audio of a conversation that he says verifies his discrimination claims.
Hileman, a transgender man, said he went to work early on Sept. 4, 2013, at AT&T, and when he allegedly overheard two employees discussing violence against transgender people, he started recording on his cellphone.
The recordings, which are are not high quality, feature two men discussing the ordinance, which was set to be voted on by City Council the next day. The two men can be heard talking about the men’s bathroom code. “You’re in the restroom; we follow the code man.” They also discuss their thoughts on a transgender man’s body. “It would be just be looking more like man boobs, kind of like some fat dude.”
The two men also discuss the serious penalties for committing a hate crime. “But even if they get beat up, that won’t last for long, because that will fall under the gay crime
those are serious.” One of the men mentions how a transgender man in the men’s restroom might be subject to an “ass whooping.”
AT&T Spokesman Marty Richter said if the recording Hileman provided to the Current is the same as the one provided he provided to AT&T, there are authenticity issues, according to AT&T’s perspective. Hileman stands by the recordings and alleges the conversation happened at AT&T.
“It’s important to note that if Mr. Hileman recorded a conversation between two AT&T employees without their consent or knowledge, he violated the law,” Richter said in a statement. “As you know, for the reasons above AT&T has filed objections with the Texas Attorney General’s office regarding the potential release of the recording. We hope the media will act responsibly before deciding whether to publicize the contents.”
Richter goes on to say that AT&T and Hileman’s employer, Resource Global Professionals, have policies that prohibit the recording of co-workers without their knowledge or consent.
We have copies of the audio and you can listen and judge for yourself.
Both AT&T and the City of San Antonio have opposed the release of the audio and have requested attorney general rulings on the matter. Ryan Loyd of Texas Public Radio and Sam Sanchez, publisher of the blog QSanAntonio, both requested the audio files under Texas open records laws.
Hileman, who was in mediation talks with AT&T about the matter, released the tapes after both sides reached an impasse this week and mediation ended. Hileman and his attorney, Justin Nichols, would not comment on the content of the negotiations, but did say that both sides did talk about money. Nichols declined to provide a ballpark figure.
“That was a huge demand and everybody said if you do get the money what are you going to do with it. I was looking at said monies. I had long conversations with multiple people. I don’t want hush money. I can’t have hush money,” Hileman said. “So how about we do a donation to a major cause and also do additional training with that group or another group.” But that never came to fruition.
Nichols said as of now, he and Hileman are waiting for the conclusion of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation. “There’s a number of things, or remedies, that we can look at, as far as the court’s are concerned. But again, Matt instructed me that that’s the last resort. We’re hoping that San Antonio’s NDO and the EEOC will provide relieve without us having to file a lawsuit.”
Richter said AT&T would not discuss details of the mediation, but continues to take the matter seriously.
"We participated in the mediation in good faith and will honor the terms of the mediation agreement, which required that the two sides not discuss the details of the negotiations," Richter said.
As for Hileman, all he wants is the NDO to work and some relief to help support his family. “I wanted to be able to support my family. The time that I’ve been out of work, I was looking for some of the relief and additional medical expenses,” Hileman said, clarifying that he had a major neurological incident and ended up in intensive care and got billed for a five-day hospital visit that he believes is correlated to his NDO complaint.
For its part, the City has gone live with its NDO complaint webpage, created an LGBT advisory board and talks of forming a committee or commission to handle all things NDO are in the works.