Gay employee fired while looking into drug theft accuses Denver Health of discrimination

Posted at 9:21 PM, Jul 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-12 00:49:20-04

DENVER - A Denver Health employee is now suing the hospital, claiming his firing during an investigation into possible stolen drugs was actually discrimination for his sexual orientation. 

"I believe I was terminated because I'm gay," Brent Houchin said.

Working as a human resources manager, Houchin was the person paid to make sure people followed the rules, policies, and procedures of the hospital. That included discipline and firings. 

"Part of my job description is to investigate all things that could be as a public employer theft of substance," he added.

He was in the middle of an investigation of the suspected theft of opiod medication by a methadone clinic employee, who according to his lawsuit, had tested positive for that substance. That's when he was informed of his firing. The reason given was two violations of HIPAA. 

Denver7 spoke exclusively to Houchin, and asked if he had ever violated the privacy law.

"No," he said adamantly. 

He was still fired, and the employee he was investigating eventually went back to work. Houchin recalled a meeting with the then-head of the hospital's employment legal department. 

"I said, 'What if this person continues to do what they're doing? What if we keep having theft or diversion occur?' And they said, 'We're going to ignore this.' Literally: We're going to ignore this," he claimed. 

Denver Health told Denver7 they cannot comment on pending litigation.

Colorado law does protect employees from being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. Houchin's attorney says the legal team has proof that Houchin was fired for following actual policy, so therefore believes his termination was based on another, possibly illegal, factor.