‘I worked really hard to become an attorney to help other people’: Spokane man sues World Relief, claims they didn’t hire him because he’s gay

SPOKANE, Wash. – A Spokane attorney filed a lawsuit against World Relief, claiming the humanitarian organization didn’t hire him because he’s gay.

Emmanuel Campos Gonzalez spoke to 4 News Now and says he’s never experienced having a job offer rescinded and describes this ordeal as heartbreaking.

“One of my goals, when I went to law school, was to become an immigration attorney to help other immigrants like me,” said Campos Gonzalez.

He applied to be a DOJ Accredited Representative for World Relief Spokane and got the job. However, his verbal job offer was rescinded a week before he was set to start in October 2021.

“I was confused. I didn’t know why this was happening,” said Campos Gonzalez.

He says he waited weeks to hear back from World Relief’s HR Director and eventually reached out to World Relief Spokane’s Executive Director Mark Finney.

“[Finney] apologized and he said that they didn’t expect they were going to do that to me,” said Campos Gonzalez.

In his lawsuit, Campos Gonzalez says World Relief discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation. The Washington Law Against Discrimination protects citizens from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, but does allow exemptions for religious non-profits. 

World Relief is part of the National Association of Evangelicals. The organization has an employee policy mandating that sexual activities of all employees be within the “biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Court documents show Finney mentioned this corporate policy as to why the job was pulled from Campos Gonzalez.

We reached out to Mark Finney but he could not comment on this lawsuit. He has since announced his resignation and his last day with the humanitarian organization on February 15.

Finney wouldn’t tell us his plans beyond World Relief Spokane but provided this statement:

“Spokane has been fantastic in refugee resettlement for decades and there’s great potential for this community to grow in our hospitality and help for our newest neighbors.”

 

Other World Relief Spokane employees have left the organization, including Sam Smith. Smith is the former Director of Immigration Legal Services for World Relief Spokane and helped with the hiring of Campos Gonzalez.

“I was really excited because [Emmanuel Campos Gonzalez] was highly qualified and would have been a great fit for the team,” Smith said.

Smith had been with World Relief Spokane for 3.5 years but resigned late last year.

He says his heart goes out to his former colleagues at World Relief Spokane because he says there are some that would like to work for a refugee resettlement agency that didn’t have this policy, some would like to leave but can’t because of financial considerations for their families or because they’re working with high needs clients they don’t want to abandon in a pandemic.

Smith identifies as a Christian and says his new venture with Manzanita House does not have an employee policy as mentioned in Campos Gonzalez’s lawsuit.

“Whoever we serve, we work with, we would celebrate their whole identity and not have any hiring policies close to this,” said Smith.

Smith says Manzanita House is still waiting for 501(c)(3) status, so they can’t accept donations yet but they are seeking a fiscal sponsor.

As for Campos Gonzalez, he says he plans to stay in Spokane and is humbled by the outpouring of support from the community. With this lawsuit, he feels he’s not only standing up for himself but for others like him.

“I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I’m going through and the way they made me feel. I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” said Campos Gonzalez.

We reached out to the National Association of Evangelicals but they have not responded.

You can read more about this lawsuit and see a statement from World Relief here.

Complaint for Employment Discrimination by Tasha Cain on Scribd

MORE: Spokane man sues World Relief claiming they rescinded his job offer because he is gay