Man awarded $3.5million after being fired for being gay by his own family
The banker was told he should ‘get back in the closet and get back to work’ by a family member.
Stephen Habberstad always knew he was gay, but was terrified of the reaction his family might have.
Like many men, he decided to suppress his feelings, marry a woman and had four children.
Unable to keep his sexuality a secret any longer, Habberstad decided to come out as gay in his 50s, leading to a bitter divorce and huge family fall-out.
His worst fears were confirmed when his family turned against him, cutting off contact and firing him from the family business.
Following his dismissal, his relatives – many of whom are on the board of the business – claimed his was asked to leave for financial reasons.
However, Habberstad says it was because of his sexual orientation and in a ruling handed down late last month, a judge agreed.
“The truth is, Stephen Habberstad was terminated because he is gay,” the Judge Joseph Bueltel ruled.
He was awarded as much as $3.5 million – which could be one of the largest payout to a single person for sexual orientation discrimination, according to the Star Tribune.
Habberstad was originally the majority share-holder in the family-owned Country Bankers Inc. – a successful holding company in southeastern Minnesota.
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As part of his divorce settlement with his ex-wife, he gave her a portion of his shares – resulting in him losing majority control.
Subsequently, his ex-wife and sister united to take charge of the boardroom, ultimately culminating in Habberstad’s dismissal for his decision to come out.
The court also heard that an aunt of Habberstad’s – a fellow shareholder in the business – had said he, “needed to get his act together, get back in the closet and get back to work.”
‘It means I can get on with my life,’ said following the ruling “I’m still trying to get over this. It had nothing to do with how our business was run.
“I was fired for being gay, and it’s just totally wrong.”
Earlier this month, a priest was suspended after sending a contractor pictures of his penis – then firing him.