An Oregon teenager who filed a discrimination complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries after Walmart refused to sell her a rifle asked for $135,000 in a settlement—the same amount an Oregon baker was fined after refusing to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple.
Hannah Brumbles, an 18-year-old Deer Island woman, filed a civil rights complaint with BOLI in April. BOLI investigators found that Walmart had violated state nondiscrimination laws and filed formal charges against the company on Aug. 21.
Her father says he wanted the same fine that was levied against a Gresham bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a lesbian couple.
"Discrimination is discrimination," says Chris Brumbles, Hannah's father.
But Walmart's representatives laughed at the $135,000 proposal, he says. They allegedly offered Hannah Brumbles $150 and asked her to sign a "gag order."
"It was a joke, it was kind of a spit in the face to her," he says. "It's not about money but I would like Walmart to feel a little sting, like I would if I broke the law."
The Brumbles are unlikely to get the size of settlement they sought—but the fine could still be significant. An administrative law judge will review BOLI's findings before determining damages in the case, but the state agency has suggested a $5,000 penalty. Walmart can appeal the judge's decision in court.
"In February of this year, we reviewed our policy on firearm and ammunition sales and as a result, we raised the age restriction for the purchase of those items to 21. We stand behind our decision and plan to defend it," a spokesman for Walmart said in a statement sent to WW. "Settlement discussions are designed to be confidential and we won't comment on them. We are preparing for the November hearing before the administrative law judge."
Hannah Brumbles went to a St. Helens Walmart in the spring to buy her first legal firearm after turning 18. Her father says that purchase is a family tradition, and he's taken three of his children to buy guns after their 18th birthdays. But Walmart refused to sell Hannah a rifle in April, citing a new company policy to restrict firearm sales to people over the age of 21 in the wake of a mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Brumbles describes his daughter as a skilled gunman who has been hunting since she was very young. He says she's taken Project Appleseed classes to learn to shoot safely and accurately.
"She probably knows more about gun safety than most adults that you know," he says.
She graduated from high school in the spring and moved into her own house. She works, pays her own rent and will start college in the fall. Her father says her independence added to Hannah's frustration when Walmart refused to sell her a gun she is allowed to buy under Oregon law.
"She waited all these years to go out on her own and be a legal adult and then they treat her like dirt," her father says, "like a little kid."
Chris Brumbles is an adamant supporter of the second amendment and leads a local gun rights advocacy group. He says he is frustrated with the stores, including Fred Meyer, Bi-Mart and Dick's Sporting Goods, that have stopped selling guns to 18, 19 and 20-year-olds.
"They're trying to dictate policy using their corporate power," he says. "If they want to violate our rights, they can get someone else's money. Not mine."
BOLI's finding sets the stage for lawsuits working their way through Oregon courts challenging the stores' decisions to restrict gun and ammunition sales to people over 21. Two cases, one against Walmart and another against Dick's Sporting Goods, are scheduled to go to trial later this year and in early 2019.
Lawmakers may act in 2019 to raise the minimum age to buy a firearm or carve out an exemption under the state's nondiscrimination laws for stores that sell guns.
Although Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian says the stores are likely violating Oregon's laws now, he also told leaders in the state house that he intends to introduce a bill in the next legislative session to raise the legal age to buy a gun.