Irish organization in St Louis strongly denies claims that Irish musician lost his job because he had a black boyfriend.Getty Images/iStockphoto

James Mounsey, an Irish traditional musician and teacher based in St.Louis  has filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination against him by the St Louis branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann stating he was discriminated against because he had a black boyfriend.

The lawsuit now in federal court alleging breach of the rules of the Missouri Commission on Human rights by the St Louis Irish Arts Center, which joined Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann in 1973. 

The suit is alleging that when the plaintiff was working as a music and dance teacher at the St Louis Irish Arts Center (SLIA) “defendants began to discriminate against him...because his partner is a black man”

Mounsey, a Tipperary native who is believed to have since married his boyfriend, says SLIA director Helen Gannon required him to work far longer hours after the relationship became known and that she was upset he brought him to his concerts.

Gannon, who is one of the best known and respected figures in Irish traditional music in the US, says Mounsey’s issues had nothing to do with discrimination but rather with his work habits and bringing his boyfriend to work.

The suit alleges that Gannon told the plaintiff to please “keep (his) personal life out of the school and that his relationship was causing a distraction in work and in the school.”

Mounsey alleged that Gannon said that “you have made some grave decisions very, very quickly which will affect every aspect of your life flaunting them and forcing us to accept them which will have consequences out of your control.” Gannon strongly denies those statements.

Mounsey furnished a letter he sent to Gannon saying because of the discriminatory atmosphere he could no longer work at SLIA.

He alleged he was harassed and undermined by other SLIA personnel to his students.

In December 2013 Mounsey went home to Ireland and was informed by letter that he was no longer affiliated with SLIA. The lawsuit was filed in September 2014 to seek appropriate damages and financial compensation.

In her response Gannon and SLIA states that Missouri Human Rights Act does not apply to them, as any organization being sued under the act must have six employees or more which SLIA does not. They also noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had already stated they had no jurisdiction.

Helen Gannon, a National US president of Comhaltas, also responded by saying she sent an email to the plaintiff explaining that “teachers were discouraged from bringing dates to work,“ but denied all the other allegations by the plaintiff.

The SLIA response states that they agree they brought Mounsey to the United States on an H-1B visa under the sponsorship of St. Louis Irish Arts, that the plaintiff taught courses related to Irish Culture through St. Louis Irish Arts Center at other organizations and institutions, including Washington University, the University of Missouri and Springboard, for a period of time but they deny all his other allegations.