Justices hear part of discrimination case

Former state employee is outspoken advocate for gay rights

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DES MOINES — The Iowa Supreme Court is considering whether Iowans may receive monetary compensation for rights violations committed by state government.

The court heard arguments Wednesday on portions of a lawsuit filed by Chris Godfrey, a former state workers’ compensation commissioner who asserts Gov. Terry Branstad reduced his salary out of politics and because Godfrey is gay and an outspoken advocate for gay rights.

The court also is considering whether Godfrey’s claims should be heard through the judicial branch or through the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, which investigates claims of violations of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

Godfrey was appointed workers’ compensation commissioner by Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2006 and was reappointed in 2009 to a six-year term by Democratic Gov. Chet Culver.

Shortly after Branstad, a Republican, was elected in 2010, his administration asked Godfrey to resign. When Godfrey refused, he said the administration threatened and eventually reduced his salary by $39,000.

The administration said Godfrey’s pay reduction was because of job performance. Godfrey disputed that, citing positive work reviews and workplace ascension.

A Polk County District Court judge dismissed four of the claims; those are the ones being considered by justices.

The Supreme Court at the moment is not considering the merits of Godfrey’s complaints, only whether he may collect damages. Depending on the ruling, the case could go back to district court for trial.

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