Metro Weekly

New York Pizzeria Pays $25,000 to Settle Trans Worker’s Lawsuit

Transgender cook claimed managers and co-workers misgendered him, asked invasive questions, and compared him to a pedophile.

The owners of a Buffalo-area pizzeria recently agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a lawsuit brought on behalf of a transgender man formerly employed by the restaurant.

Last month, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which brought the lawsuit against T.C. Wheelers Bar & Pizzeria, in Tonawanda, N.Y., on behalf of former cook Quinn Gambino, announced the settlement agreement.

The lawsuit stemmed from verbal harassment and abuse that Gambino was subjected to from restaurant managers and co-workers between January and May 2021.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the owners and staff of the restaurant — as well as customers — repeatedly misgendered Gambino, who noted that he was male and did not reveal his transgender status when he first applied for the job.

Management and co-workers repeatedly referred to Gambino with female pronouns, made crude and derogatory references to Gambino’s gender identity, including telling him he “wasn’t a real man,” and asking invasive questions about his genitalia and transition, including whether he took steroids when he was younger.

The lawsuit also alleged that managers and co-workers made remarks to Gambino that equated being transgender to being a pedophile.

The EEOC also alleged that the restaurant owners failed to take action to correct the behavior of its employees and stop the harassment, despite Gambino lodging complaints with his manager. The harassment continued for months until Gambino was compelled to resign, reports The Buffalo News

Gambino subsequently filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging he was subjected to discrimination.

After determining that there was a reasonable likelihood that the restaurant had violated Gambino’s civil rights, the EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement with the restaurant. When no agreement could be reached, the EEOC sued on Gambino’s behalf.

In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that the restaurant’s failure to address the harassment violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in work environments. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that Title VII’s prohibitions apply to instances of discrimination based on a person’s gender identity and gender expression. 

As part of the settlement, T.C. Wheelers agreed to pay Gambino $3,482.31 in back wages and $21,517.69 in compensatory damages.

The settlement, which will be enforceable over the next three years, also provides that T.C. Wheelers institutes and enforces equal employment policies aimed at preventing sex-based discrimination and harassment, including discrimination or harassment against transgender individuals. 

To ensure compliance, T.C. Wheelers has hired an independent human resources monitor to supervise and investigate all employee complaints. That monitor will also provide annual reports to the EEOC to ensure that the restaurant abides by the settlement terms, and the EEOC will retain the right to inspect the company’s business records and premises to ensure compliance. 

Additionally, all owners, managers, and employees of T.C. Wheelers will be required to complete training on federal anti-discrimination laws, with the intent of educating them and curbing problematic behavior to prevent further incidents of anti-transgender abuse and harassment.

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!