Gay Publix Employees Speak Out About Alleged Discrimination

Is Publix anti-gay? Two weeks ago, we reported that the LGBT community had taken issue with the supermarket chain over its lack of policies to protect gay employees. One activist called the company "shockingly conservative."

Publix denied the accusations. Meanwhile, supporters of the supermarket wrote New Times to argue that activists had "not a single piece of testimony from a Publix employee" to back their complaints. Since then, however, several gay Publix employees have written to tell us their stories of discrimination.

"Publix needs to get with the times," says one longtime, openly gay employee in North Palm Beach. "We need to be treated equally. And we're not."

See also: Publix Discriminates Against LGBT Employees, Gay Rights Activists Argue

The employee, who we'll call Tom, asked us not to use his real name because he feared losing his job.

Tom says he began working at Publix in the 1970s but left after four years: "I quit when I was cheated out of a management position twice because I was gay." He says his superior told him flat-out that he had been passed over for the job because of his "lifestyle."

Tom later returned to the supermarket out of financial need and has worked there ever since -- never becoming a manager.

Several years ago, his partner of 33 years passed away. But when he asked for paid bereavement leave, he was told he wasn't eligible.

"They denied me bereavement pay," he says. "They said it wasn't a law in the state of Florida that we could be married, so I couldn't get bereavement leave."

"That's flat out discrimination," he says. "It wasn't the money that I needed. It was the principle of the thing."

He says the snub was particularly galling because other, straight Publix employees have been married and divorced many times but still receive bereavement pay when a loved one passes away. Yet his relationship wasn't recognized.

"They're a bunch of hypocrites," he says of his higherups.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.

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