When Stephen Habberstad came out as gay, his family did not support him in it. There are many homophobic families which don’t accept their children’s coming out, but what makes this story sadder is that Stephen’s family was also his work staff – and they told him to ‘go back in closet’ (he hid his sexuality, was married to a woman and had 4 kids) if he wanted to keep his job.
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. He was awarded as much as $3.5 million – this sum is reported to be the biggest ever in sexual orientation discrimination cases.
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.