Peter Oiler Ends Court Fight

Blames Conservative Political Environment

NEW ORLEANS, LA (Jan. 9, 2003) Peter Oiler, a former truck driver fired by the Winn-Dixie grocery chain after telling a supervisor he cross-dressed off-duty, dropped his lawsuit against the company because he reportedly feared another loss in the current conservative political environment would impede anti-discrimination efforts.

Oiler, citing recent Republican gains in Congress and President Bush’s re-nomination of Charles Pickering to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where his case would be tried, told the Associated Press: “I’m afraid I would have done more harm to the cause than good.”

U.S. District Judge Lance Africk ruled against Oiler last Sept., saying his claims did not fall under Title VII, the federal statute outlawing sex discrimination, or under the landmark Supreme Court case, Price Waterhouse v. Cooper, barring sex stereotyping in the workplace. In Nov. Africk rejected an appeal by Oiler to hear the case again.

Winn Dixie, Inc. is now suing Oiler to cover the company’s legal fees of $9,000. The two parties are set to appear in court on Feb. 5.

In January 2000, Winn-Dixie fired Mr. Oiler because he occasionally cross-dressed off-duty, claiming that customers might stop shopping at the grocery chain if they found out. In contrast, the company made no claims about Mr. Oiler’s job performance, which was reportedly competent. As a result, Oiler sued the company with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for sex discrimination under Title VII of the American Civil Rights Act of 1964.

NATIONAL NEWS February 5, 2003