Discrimination | Florida

Florida Supermarket Publix Fined $100K For Firing Gay Employee


The Miami New Times had been receiving multiple complaints over alleged anti-gay attitudes and unofficial policies of supermarket chain Publix, but those complaints received a boost in credibility after the Broward County Human Rights Board found one store guilty of discrimination against a gay former employee and ordered the store to pay him $98,408.

The story begins in February 2010 when a separate employee was fired for stealing gift cards and money. During an interview with a loss prevention specialist, the employee began alleging wrongdoing on the parts of other employees, one of whom was Richard Glisson who had been a cake decorator for the chain for ten years. He claimed that Glisson had given him a red velvet cake bar, which was in violation of store policy.

When asked about this, Glisson admitted to giving the employee the cake, but pointed out that it was a kind the store no longer sold and thus were unable to sell and also brought up that it was store policy for employees to sample wares to become more familiar with their products and better assist customers.

Publix fired Glisson for his transgression. However, other employees who admitted to similar violations during the investigation were merely given warnings. Glisson brought his complaint to the Broward County Human Rights Board and in 2012 they ruled in his favor, stating:

Though [District Manager David] Thoman testified that his sole reason for terminating Mr. Glisson was for his 'admissions of theft,' when compared to the discipline given to the comparators, the near verbatim wording of Mr. Glisson's Associate Statement, on which Mr. Thomas claims he based his decision to terminate, we are left with only one logical conclusion: that the real motivating factor behind Mr. Glisson's termination was impermissible discrimination based upon his sexual orientation.

Publix is appealing the decision.

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  1. I live in Broward County, which Publix was it? This is the first I've heard about this.

    Posted by: Frogview | Jan 18, 2014 10:16:19 AM

  2. I indirectly work with publix. iknow several sote mg

    I work indirectly for publix. I deal with the store management here in central florida. I know several out gay managers. I have discussed being gay working with the in the past. all have said they have had no issues with being out and in fact have had publix management go to bat for them when they have had problems with fellow employees harassing them. I can only assume that is in an exception.


    Posted by: titus | Jan 18, 2014 10:37:20 AM

  3. The problem here is that Publix's district manager Mr. David Thoman was inconsistent in how he disciplined these employees. I believe he has some explaining to do.

    Posted by: Jay | Jan 18, 2014 10:46:33 AM

  4. @Jay :

    No, the problem here is that Mr. David Thoman is a bigot.

    Let's use plain English.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Jan 18, 2014 10:52:40 AM

  5. It's hard to believe that you can still be fired from your job in the U.S.A. simply because you're gay.
    Hey everybody, there's a new day dawning out there, and it's the 21st Century.....!........

    Posted by: David From Canada | Jan 18, 2014 11:04:01 AM

  6. @David: sorry, but until we can get ENDA passed it's gonna keep happening in areas where there are no other protections in place.

    Posted by: jim | Jan 18, 2014 12:15:06 PM

  7. If this was the Publix that still closed on Sundays b/c of its founders religous beliefs I would believe it was systemic, but I suspect at best an inconsistent decision by a single manager and at worst a rogue manager making a point. I suspect the latter and there was no bias intended.

    Posted by: Jason B. | Jan 18, 2014 12:31:21 PM

  8. Maybe there was discrimination and maybe there wasn't. Filing discrimination lawsuits is a very common thing for pissed off former employees to do -- age, race, sexual orientation, pregnancy, whatever. I've seen it to much to side automatically with the terminated person. There's usually a lot more to the story. Maybe this one has merit -- I don't know -- but I would go easy with the bigot accusations. In fact, the knee-jerk sally-sensitive accusations of bigotry are weakening our cause right now.

    Posted by: me | Jan 18, 2014 2:03:34 PM

  9. me; Well it's pretty obvious that it was discrimination because he was fired and the rest not. If it was based on his sexual orientation or simply because his boss didn't like him it's another story

    Posted by: jjose712 | Jan 18, 2014 3:50:24 PM

  10. I'm surely glad that I'm freelance.

    Posted by: tinkerbelle | Jan 18, 2014 5:43:24 PM

  11. Publix loves the gays...we have several in our Sarasota stores behind the counter, in management roles, in the aisles, all over the place...Publix does a good job and takes care of their employees...this Miami guy sounds like a bad apple.

    Posted by: chris | Jan 18, 2014 9:55:49 PM

  12. Well, people who looked at all the available evidence decided that it was discriminatory so I think the accusation was substantiated.

    Posted by: Armando | Jan 18, 2014 10:47:19 PM

  13. I'm with some others here. While it's entirely possible that this manager fired this employee because of personal prejudice (it would have been better if it were a clean and clear case of discrimination) my local Publix (St. Pete Beach) doesn't appear to have issues with gay employees or customers.

    Posted by: enchantra | Jan 18, 2014 11:21:03 PM

  14. I live here in Broward County and I shop at the Publix that is in the heart of Wilton Manors, which has more gay men by percentage than any other city, including San Francisco. Oddly enough though, I have perhaps only seen one person working there who might even be gay. The vast majority of employees are Haitian men and women, hired by an entirely Haitian management team.

    Posted by: Chris | Jan 19, 2014 1:10:37 AM

  15. Regarding the comment posted by "Chris" declaring "Publix does a good job and takes care of their employees", you obviously have never worked for Publix. I worked for that wretched company for 8 years and 3 months. Like Mr. Glisson, I fired for taking non-saleable goods (scraps from the Deli to feed stray cats)! Publix Corporation cares about nothing except making profits. If they cared about their employees, then why are they facing a class-action lawsuit (Ott vs Publix)over wages?
    If one reads the article about Mr. Glisson's termination, one is left wondering how could loss prevention have even listened to the terminated employee's allegations at all! The guy is going under so he is attempting to bring down as many as possible. When did Mr. Glisson give the cake to the terminated employee? Ten minutes ago? A week ago? A month ago? It sounds like Publix was looking for a reason to terminate Mr. Glisson and they used the Publix policy of better to throw anything into the garbage than give it to an employee! And truth be told, if others were only reprimanded for doing the same thing, there is discrimination.
    I for one am glad Mr. Glisson won his suit against Publix.

    Posted by: marysia a. miciak | Jan 19, 2014 12:44:42 PM

  16. Assuming he was an Employee at Will, he coupd be legally fired / terminated for no reason at all. A decent, reputable employer wouldn't do that. They would create a paper/digital trail and employee write-ups. If a time came when they wanted to fire an employee, for whatever reason, this is how they usually do it. I'm surprised a court of law would uphold such a fine. It's very difficult to prove discrimination in a court.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jan 19, 2014 5:27:38 PM

  17. Rat, I think that all they really had to prove was disparate treatment, opining that it was gay related was merely commentary.

    Posted by: enchantra | Jan 19, 2014 7:14:58 PM

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