BOYSTOWN — Text messages that are part of a sexual harassment lawsuit against a noted gay bar by a former employee have emerged in court papers, though the defendants argue the messages were not inappropriate.
Joseph Parker, a former doorman at the popular Boystown bar Sidetrack, is accusing Sidetrack of violating his civil rights, saying that managers sexually harassed him and harassed him for being a conservative Christian gay man.
Earlier this year, he filed suit in federal court against the bar, owner Art Johnston and several Sidetrack employees.
Sidetrack and the employees denied they violated Parker's civil rights, and the bar's attorneys are asking that U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve rule in their favor ahead of a jury trial.
Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St., is a Boystown mainstay, and its owners are known to be pioneers of gay rights. Its attorneys have maintained that the bar is a welcoming environment for all people.
After Parker initially complained of "unwelcome sexually explicit text messages" from a Sidetrack manager, Sidetrack's owners launched an internal investigation but found no evidence of religious or sexual harassment, Johnson testified.
The texts included messages to Parker saying "Dance" at both 7:29 p.m. and 7:46 p.m. in November of 2010 and "Some 4 am calls are always welcome" at 1:47 a.m. in December of 2010, according to screenshots of the texts included in court files.
Parker's complaint said the texts featured "pictures of homosexually suggestive leather fetish gear with unwelcome statements" that the manager wanted Parker to wear the clothing to work at Sidetrack, according to the complaint.
Image thumbnails of photo texts show black leather, but it is unclear what the items are.
Other messages that the manager allegedly sent Parker on Facebook inviting Parker to have sex in a "playroom" were not in court documents.
Johnston said the photos "did not appear to be objectively sexually suggestive, especially in light of the fact that employees sometimes wear such outfits during the Mardi Gras party, or for the International Man of Leather event."
Sidetrack hosts events throughout the year that feature men in underwear, men wearing sexual leather gear and other "sexually-tinged performances," Johnston said. The bar is a place for customers to "feel at ease with their sexuality," he said.
Parker also accuses another bar manager of sexual harassment, citing an incident in which that manager, described as being on the brink of suicide, allegedly texted Parker saying "wish you were here to cuddle."
The two previously had a sexual encounter at another Boystown bar, Hydrate, and then became friends, according to depositions. The manager eventually was listed as a reference on Parker's application to work at Sidetrack, according to court documents.
After Parker began working at Sidetrack, Parker alleges that the second manager once gave him shots of alcohol and forced oral sex on him.
The manager said the encounter was consensual and claimed that he only performed oral sex on Parker after Parker took off his own clothes. "He got naked, so I went from there," he said.
The bar's lawyers also claim that Kevin Dujan, a conservative gay blogger who has been identified as Parker's boyfriend, is unduly influencing the suit.
DuJan has a history of criticizing Johnston, and the gay community as a "Gaystapo," and has accused Sidetrack of discriminating against conservative Christian gays, a claim the bar denies. Sidetrack attorneys have accused DuJan of intimidating witnesses in the case.
Parker's attorney, Stephen Boulton, said he did not know whether Parker is still in a relationship with DuJan "as it's none of my business." He maintains that DuJan has nothing to do with Parker's lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Parker is still studying to be an architect, Boulton said.
In the next month, Boulton must respond to Sidetrack's request to St. Eve to rule in their favor before a trial.