By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated July 31, 2003 01:00 PM

In a tangle that has fans and legal eagles alike scratching their heads, a former gardener on Elizabeth Taylor’s Bel Air estate is suing the star, alleging that she fired him without pay because he wasn’t gay.

Among the elements in the case, reports Reuters, is the 71-year-old screen legend’s butler and a Disneyland-like jungle at her Bel Air mansion.

Willem Van Muyden is reportedly seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress over being fired by Taylor without being paid the $294,000 he claims to be owed for 10 years’ work. The breach of contract and sex discrimination lawsuit was filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Van Muyden, who says he fashioned a Disneyland jungle-style garden on the Bel Air grounds at the request of Taylor, claims he was axed in September 2002 because he rejected the sexual advances of the actress’s French butler, Jean-Luc Lacquement.

“Van Muyden … believes and alleges that Taylor, at the request and/or suggestion of Jean-Luc, intentionally fired plaintiff in retaliation because of his rejection of the sexual assault,” the lawsuit says. The papers go on to allege that an unnamed secretary of Taylor’s told Van Muyden that he was not being paid “because he was not gay like the other employees that worked for Taylor.”

Legal representatives for the star told Reuters on Wednesday that Van Muyden’s lawsuit was “a work of complete fiction” and that the actress plans to countersue on the grounds of malicious prosecution.