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.

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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.