A Minnesota worker who was fired from his job in his family's banking business has been awarded $3.5 million after filing a lawsuit for sexual orientation discrimination. It may be one of the largest payouts to one individual in state history for a sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit.
The 61-year-old man, who worked for his family's banking business, did not come out as gay until 2004, although he always knew he was gay. The man subsequently saw his salary and job duties cut. He was told by his aunt, a shareholder in the family business, that he needed to "get back in the closet." Eventually, he was fired after the business' shareholders and directors determined that the man's sexual orientation was a liability to the business.
The judge in this case determined that the man's family, as employers, committed sexual orientation discrimination by firing him and breached their fiduciary duty. The judge noted that individuals have a right to work and that discrimination can occur even at the hands of family and friends. The man's relatives maintain that he was let go due to business reasons.
Per the judge's award, the man will receive nearly $800,000 in backpay. He was also awarded $25,000 for the emotional distress he suffered. Moreover, the man was awarded $100,00 per year for the next 21 years, as opposed to a lump sum in stocks, which could cause financial harm to the family business.
As this shows, employment discrimination can occur in just about any workplace, even a family business. While no one should be retaliated against in the workplace due to their sexual orientation, unfortunately this occurs all too often. However, rulings like this one show that those who have been discriminated against can pursue a lawsuit in order to recover for the damages they suffered.
Source: StarTribune, "Former Minnesota banker ousted because he's gay, court rules," Mary Lynn Smith, Aug. 11, 2016