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Former Commissioner Narrows Discrimination Lawsuit

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 | 580 | 0 | 0 min read

The attorney for a former Iowa workers’ compensation commissioner who alleges then-Gov. Terry Branstad discriminated against him because he is gay has narrowed the scope of his lawsuit  and plans to take it to trial next year.

Chris Godfrey

Chris Godfrey

The Des Moines Register reported that Chris Godfrey’s case is being closely watched by state government agencies that fear the lawsuit could create more litigation.

In a filing last week, Godfrey’s attorney, Roxanne Conlin, narrowed the lawsuit to focus on five counts accusing Branstad and his staff of discrimination based on sexual orientation, retaliation and violating his constitutional guarantees of due process.

The Iowa Supreme Court in June ruled that Godfrey could seek damages for alleged political retaliation. The decision makes it easier for Iowa residents to sue government officials who allegedly violate their rights, the newspaper reported.

Godfrey became the Iowa workers’ compensation commissioner in 2006 as an appointee of Gov. Tom Vilsack. Gov. Chet Culver reappointed him for a six-year term in 2009. Vilsack and Culver are Democrats.

Branstad, a Republican, defeated Culver in 2010 and asked Godfrey to resign for mismanaging the office by favoring employees over employers in his decisions, the newspaper reported. 

After Godfrey refused, he claimed his salary was reduced by $40,000, and Branstad vetoed funding for his office.

Godfrey sued Branstad and members of his administration in 2012, and in 2014 left his job to become the chief judge of the federal Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board in Washington.

No trial date has been set, but a status conference is scheduled for Dec. 18, the Des Moines Register reported.


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