Former Southern Minnesota Banker Wins Discrimination Case
Stephen Habberstad, a former banker in southern Minnesota, was awarded possibly the largest payout to a single person in a sexual orientation discrimination case by a Steele County judge. His relatives maintain he was fired for business reasons.
Habberstad and his relatives owned Farmers and Merchants Bank in Blooming Prairie and Citizens State Bank of Hayfield as well as their holding company, Country Bankers.
In a Star Tribune report, District Judge Joseph Bueltel's ruling said that the family discriminated against Habberstad because he admitted he was gay, retaliated against him for filing the lawsuit and breached its fiduciary duty. He said Habberstad was made to feel that he was a liability to the banks because he was gay.
Habberstad told his wife about being gay a couple of years after they separated in 2002. In 2007 she filed for divorce and got a stock settlement from her former husband, causing him to give up his majority interest and handing over control to his ex-wife and his sister.
Under the ruling he was awarded $798,733 in back pay, $25,000 for emotional distress and $100,00 per year for the next 21 years. The judge chose annual payments because he did not want to cause financial hardship to the banks.
The judge also did not want him to get stock that would give Habberstad control again and possibly cause him to retaliate against his family.
Habberstad must also repay a loan from the family's bank as well as one from his sister and brother-in-law.