Fast-food giant "burned" for mistreatment of transgender applicant

Although it has a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination or harassment in hiring, termination or any other aspect of employment, a McDonald’s in Orlando, Florida, is eating its words due to a former employee who overstepped his bounds.

In a complaint filed by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) before the Florida Commission on Human Relations, 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy claims she was not hired by the fast-food restaurant because she was a transgender.

When Bellamy filled out the application at the Orlando location, she did not check off the box that asks whether the applicant is male or female (a voluntary question that states, “failure to respond will not subject you to adverse treatment”). Later, when she went in for an interview, she was forced to check off the box indicating her gender. And then, to make matters worse, she received this damaging voicemail: "You will not get hired. We do not hire (expletive). You lied to me. You told me you were a woman.”

McDonald’s quickly defended its position – and policies - forbidding this type of behavior:

"The behavior of the individual in question is not reflective of the employment policies in the organization. Further, this individual acted outside the scope of his authority and was not responsible for hiring.”

Not surprisingly, the individual in question is no longer employed by the restaurant.

Is your company doing enough?

According to the New York-based TLDEF, nearly 50 percent of transgender people in the United States have been fired or refused a job because of their transgender status.

While federal law clearly protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it doesn’t offer similar protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Protection runs deeper on a state level, however, where almost half the states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in public and private employment. And earlier this year, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, a proposed federal law that would prohibit sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.

Legal requirements aside, many employers recognize that in today’s diverse environment, instituting policies and procedures that prohibit this type of discrimination is smart business.

Preventing sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace starts with understanding current laws, examining your policies and procedures, and training employees to abide by those policies.

For a quick overview of the issues, check out an earlier blog post, Sexual orientation, gender identity discrimination protections gaining legal ground, and the article in our G.Neil library, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Protection.

For specific guidance creating gender orientation policies and procedures, read our free whitepaper, Creating a Gender Orientation Policy for Your Workplace (pdf).

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