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Transgender employee accuses Barnes & Noble of harassment

With the influx of transgender employees in the workplace, many companies have been taught how to treat them with respect as they undergo their transition. According to one woman who worked at a Barnes & Noble in California, that was not the case. She claims that she was subjected to discrimination and harassment after she wanted to come forward with her new identity.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff began working for the company as a man and gradually began the process of transitioning to a woman by taking hormones. When not at work, she dressed as a woman, but she kept up male appearances elsewhere. Over time, she began to let her hair grow longer and paint her nails. One of her managers allegedly said that she would upset the customers and asked her to consider the fact that she works in family store with children present.

Finally, the plaintiff told her supervisor that she was transitioning and wanting to begin appearing as a female at work. She said her manager told her that looking like a woman would make her co-workers lose respect for her as a manager; the manager also refused to allow other employees to call the plaintiff by her female name. So that she would not make her co-workers feel uncomfortable, she asserts she was also told she would not be permitted to use the woman's bathroom or wear skirts. Additionally, she alleges she was not permitted to speak about her transition unless a manager was present.

The California plaintiff stated she was humiliated and was later fired for calling in sick due to a stress-induced panic attack. A member of Barnes & Noble's human resources allegedly reached out and said that the matter had not been handled well and that she would relay that the plaintiff wanted to go back to work. Allegedly, because of her manager's assessment stating the plaintiff was not able to do her job, the transgender woman was never rehired. According to a spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble, the company happily employs many transgender people, and it does make sure that its workers understand about the transition process. California workers who feel that they are the victims of harassment or otherwise discriminated against may choose to pursue legal recourse.

Source: Fortune, "Barnes & Noble sued for discrimination by transgender ex-employee", Claire Zillman, May 7, 2015

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