A transgender woman has filed a lawsuit against a Chick-fil-A franchise in Decatur, Georgia, claiming she was unlawfully fired from her job after complaining about on-the-job sexual harassment and discrimination.
The employee in question, Erin Taylor, is suing the Chick-fil-A- restaurant located at 105 East Trinity Place in downtown Decatur, demanding an unspecified amount in damages and asking to be reinstated in her role as the franchise’s director of operations, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
According to the lawsuit, Taylor was hired on Aug. 23, 2021, when she began training for the director of operations role. In her first few days, Taylor went through training with other new hires at different levels.
On the first day of training, she claims another employee made vulgar sexual remarks about her. Taylor went to her shift manager, who said she did not feel comfortable addressing the issue and told Taylor to take her complaint to the franchise owner, Joe Engert.
Taylor alleges in her lawsuit that she met with Engert four days after being hired, and discussed her complaints, revealing her transgender identity in the process. According to court documents, Engert allegedly that “it should be an honor,” given her transgender status, “that someone liked her enough to hit on her.”
Engert allegedly told Taylor he would look into her complaints of harassment, but if it continued, “they would have to focus more on the person claiming the harassment to see if there is an issue.” Later that day, Engert and another director of operations for the franchise spoke to the employee Taylor had accused of harassment, but did not discipline or reprimand him.
After the meeting with the higher-ups, the employee began making discriminatory and homophobic remarks to Taylor. As word of Taylor’s transgender identity spread to other Chick-fil-A employees, Taylor’s co-workers began making their own homophobic remarks, but managed to avoid being disciplined.
Taylor also claims that she stopped receiving the training needed to become director of operations, which she questioned. However, her superiors at the restaurant ignored her inquiries as to why that was occurring. And the harassment from fellow employees, including disparaging comments about Taylor’s sexual orientation and gender identity — including deliberately misgendering her — continued.
On Nov. 1, 2021, Taylor was fired after the franchise claimed she abruptly walked off her shift — a charge she denies. But Taylor claims she had been harassed by a co-worker and been approved to leave the restaurant for that shift. The restaurant also claimed Taylor was terminated for tardiness, a charge she disputes.
Taylor has filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and retaliation for complaining about the mistreatment at the hands of her co-workers and superiors — all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She claims she suffered “emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other nonpecuniary losses” as a result of the mistreatment, and the franchise’s failure to curb the discriminatory behavior and remarks of her co-workers.
The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled that workplace discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal because it violates prohibitions on sex-based discrimination contained in Title VII.
A spokesperson for Boston-based Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which is representing the Chick-fil-A franchise in the case, sent a statement in response to an inquiry from Metro Weekly.
“Our client, IJE Hospitality, has vigorous policies and procedures to prohibit harassment, discrimination, and retaliation and does not discriminate or harass, or tolerate discrimination or harassment, on the basis of any protected characteristic, including sex or gender identity,” the statement read. “IJE Hospitality is committed to creating and maintaining a workplace that is welcoming, inclusive, and values all people.
“We are and will continue to defend against [Taylor]’s claims in court,” the law firm added, referring to Taylor by her deadname, which is also her legal name.
Taylor’s lawyers, Ryan Morgan and Jeremy Stephens, of the Atlanta-based law firm Morgan & Morgan, released a statement on their client’s behalf.
“Erin went into this job with the reasonable expectation that her coworkers and managers would accept her as part of their team and work together to successfully operate the restaurant,” the statement reads. “Ms. Taylor alleges that, instead of the ‘positive and productive place to work’ Chick-Fil-A says they strive for, she found a cesspool of hate and discrimination.
“Rather than address the alleged discriminatory and illegal work environment, the franchise owner allegedly piled on before eventually firing her,” Morgan and Stephens added. “We are committed to seeking justice for Ms. Taylor and accountability for the horrifying treatment she suffered through and hope to ensure all Chick-Fil-A franchises never treat another employee this way again.”
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