Workers in California are protected from discrimination at work by both state and federal laws. A transgender woman is suing Sam’s Club alleging discrimination. According to court documents, she was fired from a North Carolina store after making repeated complaints about harassment.
The woman began working at the store in 2004. At that time, she had not yet made a transition to living as a woman. She was eventually promoted to supervisor. By 2008, she began making the transition by growing her hair out and wearing makeup to work.
The complaint alleges that co-workers began treating her differently, referring to her as “thing” or “it” and making offensive jokes about her. She alleges that the assistant manager began writing up false reports about her work, which led to her termination.
After an investigation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that there was a sufficient basis to suspect that she had experienced a hostile work environment. After negotiations to settle the case out of court failed, she was issued a notice of right to sue by the EEOC.
A person who has faced workplace discrimination may benefit from consulting an attorney about their rights. Most employees are at-will workers, which means that they can be fired for any reason as long as it is not illegal. In many places, an employee cannot be fired because of his or her gender identity, race or religion.
In addition to wrongful termination based on discrimination, the woman is alleging that she experienced a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment occurs when co-workers or managers behave in such a way that it becomes difficult for another employee to continue working there. This includes the use of slang, insults, jokes or slurs that an employee would find offensive. The behavior must be so bad that it has altered the employee’s ability to continue working at the company.