Midland Brewing Co. was recently hit with a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against one of its former employees.
A former Midland Brewing Co. employee is suing the Michigan-based craft brewery for discrimination after he was fired for “refusing to change his appearance and hide his relationship with his partner.” The suit was filed by Ryan Boshaw last Thursday and makes several allegations, including “sexual discrimination, at-work harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination.”
Boshaw started as a server with the brewery back in May 2018 and was eventually promoted in September 2018 to an hourly manager position. According to his lawsuit, Boshaw is an openly gay man who has been in a longtime relationship with his partner. When he was approached by his supervisor to discuss potentially moving him to a salaried role, the supervisor allegedly “suggested he remove his relationship status from his Facebook page, remove visible piercings, and style his hair differently to appease the owner,” according to the suit.
Boshaw’s suit states his supervisor’s requests were made to make Boshaw appear more “stereotypically masculine for the company’s brand.” It should be noted that Midland Brewing Co. is known for “honoring the legacy of Michigan lumberjacks, railroaders, brewers…Sturdy men with big beards and tough women who didn’t take any guff,” according to the brewery’s website.
Initially, Boshaw complied with his supervisor’s requests and was promoted. However, the move began causing problems in his personal life. Eventually, it became so bad that he met with the owner to complain about what his supervisor told him to do so he could get promoted. Shortly after meeting with the owner, Boshaw’s manager allegedly “began hyper-scrutinizing his performance at work and recommended he be fired, which happened in May.”
Why did it take so long for Boshaw to file his suit if he was fired in May? Well, in cases like this the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has to go through a process to try and remedy the situation before granting plaintiffs like Boshaw the right to sue. His attorney, Collin Nyeholt, said that Boshaw “had to exhaust (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission) remedies before the commission determined a right to sue, which they did.”
This isn’t the first time a Michigan brewery has been slapped with discrimination accusations. Earlier this year, Grand Rapids-based Founders Brewing Co. received nationwide attention when it agreed to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit over an incident that happened at the company’s Detroit taproom. As a result of that particular case, the popular brewery ended up closing its Detroit taproom over safety concerns. However, the company plans to reopen the taproom in 2020 now that the case has been settled.