Iowa, like Washington, has laws against employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Because of these laws, Wayne Shimer, a former employee of Casey’s General Store, has employment protections and the ability to seek legal relief for his discriminatory firing. Shimer tells the Des Moines Register of the pattern of discrimination he faced before he was fired from Casey’s.
A month after Shimer began working at Casey’s, his manager learned that he was gay and called him into her office. According to the complaint, his manager said she was concerned that his “feminine behavior” would negatively affect Casey’s customers. Afterward, Shimer’s manager allegedly made numerous bigoted comments. She also allegedly told Shimer that his husband was not allowed to visit the store while Shimer was working, even though other employees could have their significant others visit. Despite these working conditions, Shimer continued to work
at Casey’s until September 2013, at which time he was fired. His manager claims he was fired because of his behavior during a confrontation with a co-worker; he was not given the opportunity to explain his side of the situation, though. According to Shimer, he and his co-worker disagreed on the handling of a client complaint and his co-worker left the store angry. Casey’s will have the opportunity to prove Shimer’s termination was not discriminatory in court.
Washington prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment by private employers. The non-discrimination law also applies to state agencies, but not federal agencies or federal contractors. The law prohibits state, local and private employers from discriminating in any area of employment based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Everything from hiring and firing to training and events open to spouses or significant others must be equal for all employees. Employees also receive protections against retaliation for reporting instances of discrimination.
In many instances, employers can avoid and correct discrimination before they become lawsuits like Shimer’s. Many employers have policies against harassment and discrimination to which employees can refer in employee handbooks or on posters in break areas. Employers who train employees against discriminatory behaviors, and who encourage employees to report instances of harassment or
discrimination, have the opportunity to investigate and correct potentially illegal behaviors and situations from repeating. However, merely having a policy and stating encouragement for reporting and anti-discrimination may be insufficient if an employer does not act on reports or avoid discrimination itself.
As with the case of Casey’s manager, if a supervisor or those in charge participate in discrimination and harassment, those working for them will likely follow suit. This can create a hostile work environment and grounds for a lawsuit. Fortunately for most employers, embracing their non-discrimination policies, investigating concerning behaviors, and avoiding hostile situations will help prevent lawsuits.
If you believe you have suffered from discrimination in your employment or need advice in conducting a workplace investigation, a Washington employment law attorney can help.