Philadelphia – A former employee of St. Joseph’s University who’s a lesbian has filed suit against the school, claiming “hateful” pressure from supervisors to stay in the closet ruined her career, caused her to attempt suicide and resulted in the dissolution of her marriage. The 67-page lawsuit, filed October 11th, has been assigned to US District Judge Nitza I. Quinones Alejandro. A jury trial has been requested.

The school hired Noel Koenke in July 2010 as coordinator for liturgy and music. She was promoted in May 2016 to the position of assistant director for music and worship, according to the lawsuit. “[Koenke’s] performance evaluations reflected that her performance was commendable and exceeded expectations,” the lawsuit states. “[Koenke] was beloved by the students she served during her tenure. [Koenke] also completed a master’s degree in pastoral care from La Salle University while [she] was working for [the university].” But throughout Koenke’s employment, various supervisors pressured her to stay in the closet, which Koenke claims is a form of sex discrimination, according to the lawsuit. “Once having hired [Koenke], [the school] does not have free rein to continuously discriminate against, harass, and abuse [Koenke] based on her sexual orientation with impunity,” the lawsuit states. The school’s “hateful and harassing conduct” toward Koenke caused her to attempt suicide on August 11th, 2013. She was hospitalized following the suicide attempt and received therapy to deal with work-related stress, according to the lawsuit.

Koenke eventually felt she had no other choice but to resign. “The difficulty in trying to maintain a secret double life by incessantly navigating who to tell and who not to tell, both inside and outside of work, took an immense psychological toll on [Koenke],” the suit states On November 9th, 2017, Koenke was offered a severance agreement of $17,800 if she would release the university from any legal claims. She rejected the offer, moved to Texas and no longer works in the field of education. Moreover, the work-related stress contributed to her divorce, according to the suit. She is seeking damages in excess of $150,000 and a court order that the university initiates LGBT sensitivity training for its employees. (Philadelphia Gay News – Tim Cwiek at Epgn.com/news/local/15332-lesbian-sues-st-joseph-s-university)