Fired Transgender Employee Sues Employer for Sexual Harassment, Sexual Orientation Discrimination, Retaliation
July 13, 2022
A discharged transgender employee, who identifies as female, has filed a Title VII lawsuit in federal court against a Chick-Fil-A franchise in Decatur, Georgia, alleging sexual harassment, sexual orientation discrimination, and retaliation. During her training for a position as operations manager, a coworker purportedly made sexual comments toward the employee. When she disclosed that she was transgender and told the owner and kitchen director about the offensive comments, the owner told her that she should be honored “being a transgender woman that someone liked her enough to hit on her".
Sexual harassment.The employee alleged that the coworker’s comments, made in front of other employees and management, included “I would eat your a** and p***y,” and “On God, I will f**k the s**t out of you.” Following these comments, the employee complained to the shift manager, who advised her to talk to the owner. In a meeting with the owner and the kitchen manager, the employee disclosed that she was transgender and recounted the offensive comments. In addition to saying that it should be an honor as a transgender woman that someone liked her enough to hit on her, the owner purportedly said that he would look into the situation, and that if the harassment continued “they would have to focus more on the person claiming the harassment to see if there is an issue,” which the employee saw as victim blaming.
Homophobic remarks.After the meeting, the coworker made homophobic sexual remarks in front of other employees and shift managers, the complaint alleged. As word spread about the employee being transgender, other employees purportedly made homophobic comments. Several employees allegedly began to intentionally misgender the employee and claimed that she had an odor due to hormones that she took to aid in her transition, when in fact the odor was due to a faulty pipeline.
The employee further alleged that the employer did nothing to stop the harassment, and that its actions in disclosing that she is transgender escalated the harassment. The harassing coworker continued to work the same shift with the employee and was never reprimanded for his remarks, according to the complaint. The training provided to the employee also declined and became inadequate, and her inquiries as to the reason were ignored, the employee contends.
Termination.In mid-late September 2021, the employee allegedly again complained to the owner about the sexual harassment and harassment concerning her sexual orientation. The employer fired the employee several weeks later, on November 1, 2021, purportedly for walking off her shift, which was untrue, according to the complaint. The employee alleged that she had been harassed by a shift lead and was given approval to leave the restaurant.
The employer also allegedly claimed that the reason for the employee’s termination was also due to tardiness which resulted in one write up. But the employee identified at least two other director of operations employees—comparators not identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender—who had been tardy for shifts but were not terminated.
Relief sought.The three-count complaint seeks, among other things, general damages for mental and emotional suffering; punitive damages for the employer’s willful, malicious, intentional, and deliberate acts; special and/or liquidated damages for lost wages and benefits and prejudgment interest; and reasonable attorneys’ fees and expenses of litigation.