Metro Weekly

Houston bakery sued after firing gay employees who defended trans coworker

Former employees claim they were subjected to harassment and discrimination by Dessert Gallery

Dessert gallery, bakery, discrimination, gay, employee, lawsuit
Dessert Gallery is accused of anti-LGBTQ discrimination — Photo: Ulysse Pointcheval / Unsplash

A bakery in Texas has been accused of anti-LGBTQ harassment and discrimination by two former employees, a gay man and a lesbian woman.

Gilbert Johnson and Katherine Phillips have filed two separate lawsuits against Dessert Gallery in Houston, alleging the bakery violated their civil rights in terminating their employment.

Johnson, former general manager of the bakery, and Phillips allege that they were fired due to their sexual orientation after facing “offensive” comments from coworkers and having to defend a transgender coworker against anti-trans harassment.

In his suit, Johnson said that his ability to hire new staff was removed after a supervisor learned he had hired a transgender woman, OutSmart Magazine reports.

Both employees said they faced blowback from colleagues after they defended the transgender woman against transphobic comments, with Johnson saying he was “bombarded with questions” about which restroom the woman would use.

Phillips alleges harassment from her colleagues regarding her sexuality, including homophobic remarks directed at her whenever female customers would enter the store.

Johnson promoted Phillips to a shift lead, but one month later she claims she was demoted back to her previous position, and then one month after that was fired after allegedly telling coworkers they would be written up. She denies the claim.

The day after Phillips was fired, Johnson had his employment terminated, allegedly for not fulfilling his duties as general manager, a claim he also disputes.

The transgender employee was also allegedly fired by the bakery prior to Johnson and Phillips being fired.

Fran Watson, the attorney representing Johnson and Phillips in their separate suits, told OutSmart that the former employees wanted to “bring to light” the “unlawful bias with both of these cases.”

“Even the best companies make mistakes, and the bias has to be minimized because you’re impacting and interacting with a diverse workforce,” Watson said. “Seeing that three LGBTQ people were fired in a month — and two within a day of each other — shows that inherent bias was present. We want the law to remedy that mistake.”

Dessert Gallery issued a statement to OutSmart saying the company has “always been committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workforce and our community.”

“We have a long history of celebrating Pride and partnering with, as well as supporting, Houston’s LGBTQIA+ community,” the bakery said. “We take seriously any allegations like those outlined in these complaints but stand firm that these allegations are simply not true.

“We believe the proper place to disclose the facts of this case is in the courtroom and look forward to that opportunity.”

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