As transgender issues move deeper and deeper into mainstream America’s attention, there is still fierce debate about the status of the minority in discrimination laws. That’s because some companies are pushing back against transgender rights with lawsuits intended to solidify their own right as employers to turn away transgender people as employees.
One such lawsuit has come from a somewhat surprising place: luxury retailer and LGBT advocate Saks Fifth Avenue. The company has filed against a discrimination lawsuit brought forward by former employee Leyth O. Jamal, who claims she was fired for expressing her transgender identity at work.
Leyth says that she was repeatedly told to behave in a more masculine way while on the floor as well as obliged to use the men’s restrooms. Saks Fifth Avenue went as far as to tell her that she needed to “separate her home life from her work life,” according to Law360. Jamal was let go from the store, after reporting that her work environment had become hostile at the Houston, Texas, Saks Fifth Avenue where she was employed. She additionally claims that another employee called her a prostitute and threatened to harm her, reported Metro.
Saks Fifth Avenue couldn’t have chosen a worse time to take such a stance. Less than a month ago, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the Justice Department would be interpreting sex discrimination protocol Title VII to include those with transgender status like Leyth, reported the Huffington Post.
“I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.”
Although the store in question is in conservative Texas, Saks Fifth Avenue’s status as a national brand has already taken a hit for its counteraction to Jamal’s transgender discrimination lawsuit. The Human Rights Campaign has officially suspended the company’s ally status, according to Deena Fidas, Director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program.
“Saks Fifth Avenue’s arguments are hugely concerning to us. In its court filings, Saks Fifth Avenue attempts to secure a motion to dismiss Ms. Jamal’s allegations by simultaneously calling into question the validity of its own non-discrimination policy and the larger, crucial protections afforded by Title VII. The policies our CEI advances are not window dressings for any company to prop up or disregard in the face of individual allegations of misconduct. Saks Fifth Avenue is publicly undercutting the applicability of its own policies reported in the CEI and we must suspend Saks Fifth Avenue’s CEI score until further notice.”
Do you think Saks Fith Avenue has a case against Leyth O. Jamal’s transgender discrimination lawsuit?
[Image via Flickr]