Transgender Employee Subjected to Gender Identity Harassment Then Fired for Reporting, Federal Agency Charged
RALEIGH, N.C. - Bojangles' Restaurants Inc., a North Carolina corporation operating a chain of fast food restaurants in the Southeast, will pay $15,000 and provide other relief to settle a sex harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC charged that Bojangles' violated federal law when it subjected a transgender employee to a hostile work environment because of gender identity and then illegally fired the employee in retaliation for reporting the sexual harassment.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Jonathan (De'Ashia) Wolfe, a transgender woman who worked at a Fayetteville, N.C. Bojangles', was repeatedly subjected to offensive comments about her gender identity and appearance. Managers and assistant mangers demanded Wolfe, who identifies and presents as a woman, to behave and groom in ways that are stereotypically male since Wolfe was born male. Although Wolfe reported the comments on at least two occasions, the harassment continued. Shortly after Wolfe's complaints, she was fired in retaliation, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from sex discrimination, including harassment based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Title VII also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who complain about discrimination in the workplace. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Bojangles Restaurants, Inc., Civil Action No. 5:16-cv-00654-BO) after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
As part of the settlement, Bojangles' is required to pay Wolfe $15,000. In addition, the company has entered into a two-year consent decree which requires it to provide annual live-presenter training to all specified area directors, unit directors, assistant unit directors, and shift managers on Title VII's prohibition against discrimination based on sex and retaliation; to redistribute its anti- harassment/discrimination and retaliation policies to all employees at specified restaurants; and to report to the EEOC any complaints of harassment based on gender identity or gender expression at specified restaurants.
"All employees have the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment and gender stereotypes," said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC's Charlotte District. "Federal law provides transgender employees protection from sex discrimination in the workplace."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.