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A former employee has won the harassment case he claimed was based on his sexual orientation which he filed against his employer. His lawyer called the decision the first-ever in the state.
In a case that reached the state Appeals Court, the state Labor and Industry Review Commission handed down the ruling on October 28, but is still appealable. However, the employee will not be allowed to return to his job at the Stroh Die Casting Co. Inc because the commission said that the company had different legal grounds for terminating him.
Christopher Bowen, the former employee at Stroh Die Casting in Milwaukee said that in 2002 and early 2003, he was called a gay slur repeatedly, had a photograph of Liberace left close to his locker and was also told that homosexuals should be shot.
Art Heitzer, the attorney for Bowen, said, “It’s a hard-won, hard-fought win to establish that there is such a protection.” But he expressed his concern that a dissenting opinion on the said case might lead to the protection being withdrawn in the future by the commission.
Almost $148,000 in legal fees was awarded to Bowen but there is no other compensation since he did not prevail on the issue of his firing.
The company where Bowen was previously employed was found by the commission to be not doing enough to respond to the charges on discrimination, or prevent the same from happening again.
A portion of the ruling said, “It cannot be said that the respondent took any proactive role in ensuring that the atmosphere in its workplace was one where employees could work free from sexual harassment or harassment based upon sexual orientation.”
The president of the company and its lawyer did not answer any calls requesting for comment.