A transgender, former employee of Barnes and Noble has lodged a lawsuit against the company, alleging that she faced discriminatory treatment, before eventually being fired, after telling her bosses that she wished to undergone gender transition from male to female.
She has brought the action with the help of the Transgender Law Center, Alexander Krakow + Glick LLP and the Law Offices of G. Samuel Cleaver.
‘I loved my job at Barnes & Noble,’ said Victoria Ramirez in a statement.
‘I put myself through college working there. I thought this company shared my values of hard work, integrity, and respect for all people. But when I came out as transgender, they didn’t live up to those values — instead they responded by mocking me and forcing me to hide who I really am. After giving six years of my life to Barnes & Noble, I was devastated when I was fired simply for being myself. I lost my livelihood, my financial stability, and my confidence.’
Ms Ramirez worked for six years at two Barnes and Noble stores in Florida between July 2007 and July 2013.
She says that her manager at the store berated her about her long hair, makeup, and nail polish, saying her appearance was inappropriate for a ‘neighborhood store’ and that she should ‘think of the children.’
When she informed her manager that she was transgender, she says that they did not allow her to express herself in a comfortable way – forbidding her from wearing skirts, discussing her transition with co-workers, using a restroom consistent with her gender identity, or using female pronouns to identify herself.
She says that these condition induced severe anxiety and panic attacks, and that she was fired when she told her manager she couldn’t hide who she was any longer.
The lawsuit can be read in full here.
‘The law is clear: no one should be targeted for humiliation and harassment at work and ultimately lose their job because of who they are,’ said Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center. ‘It’s unacceptable for any employee to go through what Victoria experienced at Barnes & Noble.’
In a statement, the Transgender Law Center said that Ms. Ramirez’s suit has been brought under California law, ‘which includes an explicit prohibition of discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.’
‘While it is our policy not to comment directly on individual employees, it is important to point out that Barnes & Noble has a history of supporting and employing transgender individuals,’ said Barnes and Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating when approached for comment.
‘When an employee informs us that he or she will be transitioning, we work directly with the employee to provide the support they need to feel comfortable in the work place.
‘We also work with the other employees and managers in our stores to ensure they are educated about the transition process and what to expect.
‘In addition, under Barnes & Noble’s workplace benefits, the company pays for transition surgery, hormone therapy, counseling and other necessary medical assistance.
‘As a company we have been recognized over the past seven years as having achieved a perfect score in the Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality as determined by the Human Rights Commission.
‘We are very proud to employ a large number of transgender individuals, whom, like all employees are treated with dignity and respect.’