• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

Transgender woman sues Chick-fil-A franchise for termination

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Jul 15, 2022
Chick-fil-A Restaurant – Photo: Chris Potter, via flickr

A transgender woman has filed a lawsuit against a Chick-fil-A franchise in Decatur, Georgia, claiming she was unlawfully terminated from her job after complaining of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination.

The employee in question, Erin Taylor, is suing the Chick-fil-A-restaurant located at 105 East Trinity Place in downtown Decatur, seeking an undetermined amount in damages and asking to be reinstated in her role as director of franchise operations, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to the lawsuit, Taylor was hired on August 23, 2021, when she began training for the position of operations manager. During his early days, Taylor trained with other new recruits at various levels.

On the first day of training, she claims another employee made vulgar sexual remarks about her. Taylor went to her shift manager, who said she didn’t feel comfortable addressing the issue and told Taylor to take her complaint to franchise owner Joe Engert.

Taylor alleges in her lawsuit that she met with Engert four days after he was hired and discussed his complaints, thereby revealing her transgender identity. According to court documents, Engert said “it should be an honour,” given her transgender status, “that someone loves her enough to hit on her.”

Engert reportedly told Taylor he would look into her harassment complaints, but if it continues, “they should focus more on the person claiming the harassment to see if there’s a problem.” Later that day, Engert and another franchise operations manager spoke to the employee Taylor had accused of harassment, but did not discipline or reprimand him.

After the meeting with superiors, the employee began to make discriminatory and homophobic remarks to Taylor. As news of Taylor’s transgender identity spread to other Chick-fil-A employees, Taylor’s co-workers began making their own homophobic remarks, but managed to avoid being disciplined.

Taylor also claims that she stopped receiving the necessary training to become an operations manager, which she questioned. However, his superiors at the restaurant ignored his inquiries as to why this was happening. And the harassment of co-workers, including derogatory comments about Taylor’s sexual orientation and gender identity — including deliberately confusing her with it — continued.

On Nov. 1, 2021, Taylor was fired after the franchise claimed she abruptly left her shift — a charge she denies. But Taylor claims she was harassed by a colleague and allowed to leave the restaurant for that shift. The restaurant also claimed Taylor was fired for being late, a charge she disputes.

Taylor sued for sexual harassment, discrimination based on sexual orientation, and retaliation for complaining about mistreatment by co-workers and superiors, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She claims that she suffered “emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-pecuniary loss” as a result of the abuse and inability of candor to curb discriminatory behavior and remarks by colleagues.

The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that workplace discrimination against employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is unlawful because it violates title prohibitions against sex discrimination. VII.

A spokesperson for Boston-based Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which represents the Chick-fil-A franchise in the case, sent a statement in response to a request for Weekly metro.

“Our client, IJE Hospitality, has strong policies and procedures to prohibit harassment, discrimination and retaliation and does not discriminate or harass, or condone discrimination or harassment, based on any protected characteristic, including sex or gender identity,” the statement read. “IJE Hospitality is committed to creating and maintaining a welcoming, inclusive and empowering workplace for all.

“We are and will continue to defend against [Taylor]’s claims in court,” the law firm added, referring to Taylor by his dead name, which is also his legal name.

Taylor’s attorneys, Ryan Morgan and Jeremy Stephens, of the Atlanta-based law firm Morgan & Morgan, released a statement on behalf of their client.

“Erin began this job with the reasonable expectation that her colleagues and managers would accept her as a member of their team and work together to successfully operate the restaurant,” the statement read. “Ms. Taylor alleges that instead of the ‘positive and productive workplace’ that Chick-Fil-A claims to be seeking, she has found a cesspool of hatred and discrimination.

“Rather than address the allegedly discriminatory and illegal work environment, the franchise owner would have continued before ultimately firing her,” Morgan and Stephens added. “We are committed to seeking justice for Ms. Taylor and to accountability for the horrific treatment she suffered and hope to ensure that all Chick-Fil-A franchises never treat another employee this way again.”

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