News :: Workplace

Iowa Store Clerk Says He was Fired For Being Gay, Sues

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Monday Feb 24, 2014
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  (Source:AP/Charlie Neibergall)

A store clerk from outside of Des Moines, Iowa, says he was fired from his job because he is gay -- not long after he was told he was acting too "feminine" in the store, the Des Moines Register reports.

Wayne Shimer, 22, filed a lawsuit this month in Polk County District Court against Ankeny-based Casey’s General Store for anti-gay discrimination after he was fired in September.

According to the lawsuit, Sheimer, who resides in West Des Moines, says his husband wasn’t allowed in the store while he was working, even though other employers were able to bring their significant others into the store.

Shimer’s attorney, Andrew LeGrant, said Shimer, who started work at Casey’s in July 2012, was fired in September 2013. His boss told him that he had been inappropriate in a confrontation with a colleague about an incident involving a customer, but according to the lawsuit, Shimer says there has been a pattern of derogatory and discrimination against him by his supervisor.

Le Grant said that the store manager found out Shimer was gay about a month after he started working at Casey’s. In a meeting Shimer’s manager allegedly told him not to act "feminine" while working because that behavior would make customers and coworkers uncomfortable, the lawsuit says.

"She didn’t want his ’feminine behavior’ to scare off the customers, and she was concerned that it may have some impact on some of the employees," LeGrant said. "[Shimer] was blown away by that, because it was something that she approached him with completely out of the blue. It hadn’t come up even indirectly before then."

Shimer says that his supervisor made many "repeated" derogatory comments towards him, saying, "You don’t fit in normal society."

After being let go, Shimer filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, the state agency that first hears allegations discrimination. The agency issued a right-to-sue letter on Feb. 7, which granted Shimer the ability to take the convenient store to court.

Iowa added sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination laws in 2007.

"Iowa is a good place with respect to having a law that does protect members of the (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community," Christopher Clark, a senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights group, told the Des Moines Register. "These laws are passed because the types of actions that are described in this complaint do occur and they occur with some frequency."

The lawsuit states Shimer is looking for monetary damages.

Shimer told the Des Moines Register that his firing wants "fair and equal treatment in the workplace for all Iowans."

"In this day and age, discrimination in the workplace is simply unacceptable," Shimer said in a statement to the newspaper. "I would like to see employers take more pride in their employees and work to prevent and stop discrimination in the workplace altogether."

He also said he hopes the lawsuit will be a reminder to employers that discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal in Iowa.

"It is my hope that this civil action will open the eyes of employers and the community and serve as a reminder that sexual orientation and who we love should not disqualify anyone from employment," he said.

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