Chris Godfrey / Screenshot via NBCWhoTV13
The former workers compensation commissioner has won $1.5 million after he was discriminated at the workplace.
Chris Godfrey won the discrimination lawsuit against the state of Iowa and former Governor Terry Branstad, who’s now the U.S. ambassador to China, though not without its headaches. The lawsuit was first filed in 2012 after Godfrey says Branstad reduced his pay for being openly gay.
In 2011, Branstad re-took office after losing it to Chet Culver. He then asked department heads of state agencies to resign. Godfrey, who had two years left on his term, refused to step down. Branstad then slashed Godfrey’s salary by $40,000 per year.
“Keep in mind the day after Branstad did this or it may have been the very day, I called the governor’s office and I said, ‘Restore his salary, apologize and it will be over,’” said Godfrey’s attorney, Roxanne Conlin to local news station KCRG. “Instead it took eight years to get justice. Eight very long years.”
All that said, Branstad wasn’t the only name attached to the original lawsuit. Several members of his staff were also included initially, but many of them were later dropped. That said, Branstad, the state, former legal counselor Brenna Findley, and former chief of staff Jeff Boeyink remained on as defendants. But the jury decided not to hold Boeyink responsible in their decision.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) and U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad (left) talk to embassy personnel and their families at the U.S. Embassy Beijing meet and greet in Beijing, China on June 14, 2018. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
Branstad, who returned from Beijing for one day last month to testify, denies knowing Godfrey’s sexual orientation when he made the decision. Despite that, the jury decided in favor of Godfrey.
For being denied constitutional due process rights by Branstad, the jury awarded Godfrey $800,000 for past emotional distress and $200,000 for future emotional distress for that failure. Then for the discrimination and retaliation claims, they awarded him an additional $400,000 for the past emotional distress in that case and $100,000 for future emotional damages against the state.
In addition, state taxpayers will probably be responsible for paying Branstad’s attorney fees, which exceeded $1 million, as well as Godfrey’s attorney fees.
“The jury heard my sexual orientation was clearly a motivating factor,” Godfrey said. “This is a win for me and it’s a win for the entire gay community in Iowa. It shows that we have sexual orientation in the Civil Rights Act in Iowa for a reason and nobody, not even Terry Branstad, is above that law.”
“A lot of people didn’t want to believe the governor of the state of Iowa himself would discriminate,” said Godfrey, now the chief judge of the board that decides federal workers’ compensation disputes in Washington. “Being able to call my mom and let her know the jury heard all the evidence and sided with us, that means a lot.”