NEWARK (CN) - A bank director sued two law schools, claiming a law review article, "Of Meat and Manhood," defamed him, saying he harassed an employee for being vegetarian, "equating vegetarianism with homosexuality."
Robert Catalanello sued Zachary A. Kramer, The Washington University School of Law, and Western New England University School of Law, in Federal Court.
Catalanello claims Kramer defamed him in an article in the Washington (University) Law Review, and in a lecture sponsored by the Western New England University law school.
Kramer is a law professor and associate dean for intellectual life at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law in Tempe, Ariz.
The article, "Of Meat and Manhood," appeared in the Washington Law Review in March 2011, according to the complaint.
Catalanello, of New Jersey, is a managing director at Credit Agricole, a European investment bank with several branches in the United States.
He claims Kramer's article falsely accused him of "sex discrimination in the form of gender stereotyping": that he had harassed a male employee at a Wall Street firm for being vegetarian.
According to the complaint: "The law review article contains false and defamatory statements of and concerning plaintiff which include, but are not limited to, the following:
"'Catalanello subjected Pacifico to a steady barrage of taunts, insults, and demeaning antics.
'The bulk of the harassment aimed to belittle Pacifico by equating vegetarianism with homosexuality.
'My interest in Pacifico's case has less to do with the particulars of his state law claim - which appears strong on its face - than with the broader implications of the discrimination he faced in the workplace ...
'... vegetarianism and sexual orientation merely served as proxies for the real reason Catalanello and others discriminated against Pacifico - he failed to conform to their idea of how a "real" man is supposed to look and act.
'... the discrimination faced by Pacifico is really sex discrimination in the form of gender stereotyping.
'...Catalanello viewed Pacifico's vegetarianism as a proxy for effeminacy.
'...Catalanello started to harass Pacifico as soon as he learned that Pacifico was vegetarian.
'For Catalanello, the easiest way to belittle Pacifico - and perhaps the most harmful way to do so in their particular workplace setting - was to call him gay. By doing so, Catalanello was relying on the stereotype, which is deeply rooted in our culture, that gay men are "fairies" and "sissies" and altogether not manly men.
'Pacifico worked on Wall Street, a stronghold of machismo culture, and Pacifico's firm seemed to fit that mold.
'On numerous occasions the firm's masculine culture revealed itself in conversations about where and what to eat.
'Knowing full well that Pacifico was vegetarian, Catalanello purposely sought to punish Pacifico by refusing to order anything but meat for work-related meals ...
'Catalanello's attitude about Pacifico's vegetarianism - that is, his animosity toward Pacifico's vegetarianism - is rooted in a gender stereotype about manliness.
'Catalanello picked on Pacifico because he thought that Pacifico did not eat what a "real" man is supposed to eat.
'According to Catalanello's worldview, a man is expected to be masculine and one way in which he should express his masculinity is by eating meat. Catalanello targeted Pacifico because he did not live up to this standard.
'Catalanello harassed Pacifico not because Pacifico is a vegetarian, but because Pacifico was not sufficiently masculine. The key here is that vegetarianism acts as a proxy for effeminacy.
'Antigay slurs and putdowns also played a significant role in harassment suffered by Pacifico. True, the words "gay" and "homo" are not intrinsically harmful labels. But in the context in which Catalanello used these words, he certainly meant it to demean Pacifico. And it is telling that Catalanello used food as a springboard to attack Pacifico's manliness, as food often serves as a powerful metaphor for our cultural attitudes about manliness and sexuality.
'By taking aim at Pacifico's dietary preferences, Catalanello was engaging in a familiar practice by which heterosexual men try to make other heterosexual men seem insufficiently masculine.
'... Catalanello called Pacifico "gay" and "homo" because this is an easy and, unfortunately, all too common way for one heterosexual man to call into question another heterosexual man's masculinity.
'For Catalanello, sexual orientation - specifically, homosexuality - is acting as a proxy for what is really going on in Pacifico's case: sex discrimination, in the form of gender stereotyping.
'Catalanello thought Pacifico was less of a man because of his vegetarianism, so he treated him as though he were gay.'" (Ellipses in complaint).
Catalanello says the statements were false and have injured his reputation, in the states where they were published, and in other states, over the Internet.
He claims Kramer made similar statements in an April 2012 lecture sponsored by the Western New England University law school, in Springfield, Mass., in which Kramer mentioned the article.
That school published the lecture on its website under "School of Law News," Catalanello says.
According to the complaint: "The lecture contained false and defamatory statements of and concerning plaintiff which include, but are not limited to, the following:
"'Ryan Pacifico was a trader at an investment firm in New York and on Wall Street .... He was doing really well ... was going to have a fine, stable career, until his boss found out he was vegetarian. ... This is a real case. I did not make this one up ... because I am prone to making things up. ... This one's real.
'So, his boss finds out he's a vegetarian and things just shift drastically for him there. The boss starts calling him, in front of everyone ... "gay" ... "homo" ... "vegetarian homo."
'The boss now starts moving all their meetings to steak houses and burger joints .... And when someone complains and says, "We shouldn't do this, what's Ryan going to eat," he says, "It's his fault. He's the one who chose to be a vegetarian homo."
'The boss ... goes up to ... Pacifico's desk and says ... "You don't eat meat, dude ... at what point did you realize you were gay?"
'He eventually got fired ... he took a leave of absence, sick leave and he was fired while on sick leave.
'It's vegetarian discrimination ... It's kind of sexual orientation discrimination because they are calling him homo and they are ... thinking he is gay ... At its core, I think it's gender stereotyping.
'The big ... claim I make in the paper is that sometimes discrimination law manifests as something else. Sometimes a bias will look like something else. There's a proxy going on ... when they say ... "vegetarian homo" they're not actually calling him gay. ... They are calling him less of a man.
'What's really going on? They think he's a sissy because he's chosen to be more like a woman.
'If you have just chosen to act like a woman then you're a giant sissy. Ultimately, what's happening here ... What the employer is doing is saying you're not conforming to what we think a man should be. What the Wall Street image of a man is.'" (Ellipses in complaint).
Catalanello seeks compensatory and punitive damages for defamation and invasion of privacy.
He is represented by Thomas Cafferty with Gibbons P.C.