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A former Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation commissioner won his discrimination lawsuit on Monday against former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad after a Polk County, Iowa, jury found that the commissioner was discriminated against on the basis of his sexual orientation and political affiliations.
The month-long trial, held in the Jasper County Courthouse in Newton, Iowa, ended a nearly decade-long effort by former commissioner Chris Godfrey to show the former Republican governor treated “homosexual appointive state officers differently than heterosexual appointive state officers, by slandering them and illegally reducing their salaries,” according to court documents.
News outlets are reporting that the jury awarded Mr. Godfrey $1.5 million in damages. However, the office of Mr. Godfrey’s attorney, Roxanne Conlin, says there is a discrepancy with that reported amount and that the office was unable to confirm the full amount of the award.
In 2011, Mr. Godfrey, who was two years into a six-year term as the state’s workers comp commissioner, claimed that the governor’s office reduced his salary from $112,068 to $73,250. In 2013, he filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, alleging that the salary reduction was an attempt to intimidate and harass him into resigning and that the governor’s office, “while acting under color of law, deprived plaintiff of equal protection of the laws by establishing, maintaining, and/or enforcing policies that treat homosexual appointive state officers differently than heterosexual appointive state officers, by slandering them and illegally reducing their salaries,” according to the complaint.
He also claimed that the former governor demanded he resign because of partisan politics.
At the time of the filing, attorneys for former Gov. Branstad, who in 2017 was appointed U.S. ambassador to China, said he knew nothing about Mr. Godfrey’s sexual orientation.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a workers compensation reform bill into law Thursday, minus controversial language that would have limited benefits for older workers.