Couple sues Amazon, alleging transgender discrimination
- A husband and wife, both former Amazon employees, are suing the retail giant for discriminating against them based on the wife's transgender status, says an ABC News report. The pair says they were subject to threats, slurs and sexual harassment from coworkers and even had their car's brakes cut while at work.
- The couple alleges that when they complained to management, they suffered retaliation. They have now sued, alleging that the retaliation violated Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on gender. The complaint also includes an Americans with Disabilities Act claim, alleging that the wife's transgender status was perceived as a disability at work.
- A lawyer working with the couple told ABC News that the case is notable in part because Amazon has generally been seen as supporting gay and transgender rights.
Employees don't always have to share an employer's perspective, but companies must ensure that workers understand workplace policies and what behavior is expected of them. Additionally, managers must be trained to take complaints seriously, and to refrain from any actions that could be viewed as retaliatory. Such training is especially important in wide-spread, multinational companies to ensure a company protects all of its workers (as well as their employment brand) from bad apples.
While courts are still trying to determine whether Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, the federal agency responsible for enforcing that law has long held that it does. (The rest of the government, however, disagrees.) The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also has said that the law prohibits discrimination based on transgender status and that the Amazon suit has merit and should move forward.
Employers also may want to pay careful attention to the treatment of transgender employees right now. Experts have cautioned that the Trump administration's ban on transgender men and women serving in the military could incite more discrimination against transgender individuals in other workplaces.