The Bureau of Labor and Industries ordered a North Portland, Ore. bar owner to pay $400,000 to a group of cross-dressers he banned from his club last year, the agency said Thursday.
The bureau's civil rights division started investigating The Twilight Room Annex, formerly known as The P Club, last summer after owner Chris Penner told The Rose City T-Girls, the group of cross-dressers, not to come back.
The penalty is imposed under the 2007 Oregon Equality Act, a law protects the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Oregonians in employment, housing and public places. This is the first penalty levied under the law, and the order issued by Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian also requires Penner to pay a $5,000 civil penalty.
"This allows them to feel justice was done and move on in a positive way," Avakian said of the cross-dressers excluded from the club. "These cases are significant in providing the sort of justice individuals are entitled to when they're discriminated against."
The bureau interviewed the T-Girls, as well as Penner's employees and other customers, according to The Oregonian. The 57-page order describes what the T-Girls called a "devastating" and "humiliating" year after being told they were not wanted as customers.
The girls said they felt safe there since the Friday night bartender was a lesbian who was kind to them, and the bouncers walked the girls to their cars as they left. They went every Friday for two years until Penner left a message on a member of the group’s voicemail, according to The Oregonian.
"People think that A: We're a tranny bar, or B: We're a gay bar," Penner said in the July 2012 message. "We are neither. People are not coming in because they just don't want to be here on a Friday night now."