A jury ruled that an Oregon gay man who worked at a local Shari's restaurant faced a hostile work environment because he failed to display traditional male behavior.
The jury awarded Kevin Turner, 33, of Gresham, $122,225 in the gender discrimination suit filed against Shari's Corp. in U.S. district court.
A Shari's spokesman told The Oregonian newspaper of Portland that the company disagreed with the jury's conclusion and was considering an appeal.
The franchise "strives to provide a safe and respectful environment for all our employees and guests," said spokesman Dick Olsen in a statement read by Shari's attorney Glen McClendon.
According to court documents, Turner alleged that he faced constant harassment while working at Shari's in 2002 and 2003. In one incident, according to the court record, coworkers put bananas in their pants and rubbed up against him. In another, a supervisor grabbed a woman's purse and referred to Turner as "Kevina" during an employee morale-boosting forum.
In addition, Turner said he was called other female monikers, including "she" and "princess."
He also alleges that he did not complain for fear of losing his job.
In 2003, Turner was fired from Shari's; according to the company, Turner grabbed a coworker's breasts. Turner counters that the female colleague jumped in his arms during horseplay and that he touched her chest accidentally. He claims that in the course of the investigation of the woman's accusation, he brought up his treatment by his colleagues and supervisors. Turner alleges that he was fired in retaliation. The jury sided with Shari's in the retaliation claim.
Because federal antidiscrimination law does not directly protect people based on their sexual orientation, Turner's lawyers litigated the case as a form of gender discrimination. Under the theory of gender stereotyping harassment, Turner faced discrimination because he did not exhibit traditional masculine behavior, said his attorney Kevin Lafky. (AP)