Winn-Dixie denies discriminating against former employee

BY Advocate.com Editors

February 15 2001 1:00 AM ET

Winn-Dixie Louisiana Inc. has appealed to a federal judge to discard a former worker’s lawsuit that claims the company illegally fired him for cross-dressing outside of work. Peter Oiler sued the grocery store chain last October in U.S. district court after he was fired in January 2000 after working for Winn-Dixie for 20 years. The company responded to the suit, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, late last week. Oiler, who has been married for 23 years, is seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress and lost wages. “Winn-Dixie Louisiana Inc. is not liable for punitive damages under any theory of this case, because it did not act with malice or reckless indifference with respect to any federally protected rights of Plaintiff,” wrote Steven Hymowitz, the company’s attorney. Hymowitz added that Winn-Dixie isn’t liable because it made “good faith efforts” to comply with Title VII, which prohibits sexual discrimination, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Winn-Dixie says Oiler raised the topic of being “transgender” during an October 1999 meeting with his supervisor. The company did acknowledge asking Oiler to resign on several occasions, but he refused. Oiler said his supervisor told him that his behavior “could harm the company image.”

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