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Judge Orders Shell to Pay $5.3 Million to Gay Former Executive

June 18, 1991

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Shell Oil was ordered to pay $5.3 million in damages to a gay executive who was fired after his secretary found a private memo he wrote on the office computer about a safe-sex party for homosexuals.

Shell fired Jeffery Collins ″solely because he was a sexually active homosexual″ and purposely inflicted distress on him, Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Taber ruled in a decision released Monday.

″This decision is a victory for all those who work and who seek to have their professional careers evaluated by their on-the-job performance and not by their employer’s moral judgment,″ said Collins’ attorney Paul Wotman.

Shell spokeswoman Eydie Pengelly said the company is disappointed with the ruling and may appeal.

Collins, 47, was earning $115,000 when he was fired in 1985 as one of the top managers at Triton Biosciences, a Shell pharmaceutical subsidiary.

In her ruling, the judge said Shell broke its own assurances to workers that they would be judged solely on job performance.

Taber described Collins’ 19-year record at Shell as ″outstanding″ and ″distinguished.″

She accused Shell of fabricating reasons for Collins’ dismissal and of deliberately making it hard for him to find an equivalent job elsewhere.

Collins, who has a veterinary degree, now works as a dog shipper at a San Francisco veterinary clinic. He earns about 20 percent of his former salary.

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