Former Iowa Governor Sued for Discriminating Against LGBTQ Employee, State Ordered to Pay $1.5M

When former Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a Republican, took office in 2011, he immediately tried to get rid of Chris Godfrey, a state official in a six-year term. He was Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner.

Branstad couldn’t fire Godfrey – so he asked for his resignation. Godfrey refused. In retaliation, Branstad cut Godfrey’s pay from $112,070 to $73,250, the lowest salary allowed by the state for his position.

Godfrey immediately put his lawyer on it.

“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.

When Godfrey did not get his salary restored, he sued Branstad for discriminating against him for his sexual orientation. At the trial, Branstad said he just wanted to hire someone more politically aligned with him and that the pressure on him to resign wasn’t because Godfrey was gay.

Related Article: Wholesome LGBTQ Ads Rejected Because of “prostitution”

But the jury did not believe Branstad and they found that Branstad, his lawyer Brenna Findley, and the state of Iowa violated the state’s Civil Rights Act. Godfrey was awarded $1.5 million for past and future emotional damages for discrimination, retaliation, and a violation of his Constitutional due process rights.

“Obviously I’d like an apology,” Godfrey told the Des Moines Register. “I don’t know if that will be forthcoming or not… But I had a jury of fellow Iowans sit and listen to the evidence, and they made the determination that they discriminated and retaliated against me and violated my constitutional rights. That just means the world to me that they took their civic responsibility seriously and came out with a just verdict.”

But there is another Republican governor in office in Iowa, Kim Reynolds, and she said she’s planning on an appeal so the state does not have to pay well over one million dollars to Godfrey and for both sides’ legal fees.

Latest News

Questlove plays a DJ set at DiversityInc's 2022 Top 50 event.

Photo Gallery: 2022 Top 50 Event

Accenture earns No. 1 spot on the Top 50 List, Hilton joins Hall of Fame. Expert panels and presentations cover the event’s theme of “ESG: Climate and Culture at Risk”. State Street execs share how they ranked for the first time. Cutting edge research from the Wharton School is presented…

Dr. Sally Saba

DiversityInc 2022 Top 50 Event: A New Landscape = New Opportunity: Shaping Corporate Standards of Excellence for ID&E Management

The role of an inclusion, diversity and equity practitioner has completely evolved, and all eyes are on the corporate community as it navigates its approach. Dr. Sally Saba, Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Medtronic, spoke about working together to shape the next generation’s standards during her Top50Talk “A New…

5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: May 5

As the saying goes, the news never stops — but there’s a lot of it out there, and all of it doesn’t always pertain to our readers. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories that matter most to our diversity focused audience. 1. The Impact Overturning…