Video retailer Blockbuster will pay $78,750 to settle the case of a former employee who claimed he was routinely harassed by fellow employees at two different stores in St. Paul, Minn., because he is gay. Jeffrey Davis filed two charges of discrimination in November 2002 with the department of human rights in St. Paul, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The settlement is believed to be the largest the Minnesota Department of Human Rights has ever obtained in a case involving discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In his charges, Davis detailed how he was called "the fag with the rainbow on his car," subjected to numerous other derogatory references to his sexuality, physically assaulted by a Blockbuster coworker, and faced with retaliation when he complained to Blockbuster management. Following an investigation, the department found probable cause that Davis had been subjected to an ongoing hostile work environment and that management had retaliated against him once he complained. Department commissioner Velma Korbel said that after investigating almost 800 cases of discrimination (of all protected classes) a year, only 10% of those ever result in a determination of probable cause, which, she said, is akin to a misdemeanor charge. "When the department does find probable cause, usually the behavior has to be pretty egregious," Davis's attorney, Elena Ostby, told the Pioneer Press. As part of the settlement, Blockbuster also agreed to provide training for all Blockbuster store managers in the Twin Cities regarding discrimination and harassment, with a specific emphasis on preventing harassment based on sexual orientation. "This was certainly an unfortunate and isolated incident and in no way reflects the manner in which we conduct business at our stores," company spokesman Randy Hargrove told the Pioneer Press. Blockbuster does not agree with all of the charges, and none of the people involved are still employed by the company, he said.