Trans Woman Sues Convenience Store for Harassment, Discrimination

Judi Brown was fired from Circle K the day after Chicago Pride.

An Illinois transgender woman is suing Circle K after being fired from a location in Bolingbrook, a Chicago suburb.

Judi Brown filed suit this week against the convenience store chain, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, alleging harassment and discrimination.

Brown, who worked as a cashier at Circle K for a little more than a year, is accusing former co-workers of calling her a “man in a dress,” other transphobic slurs, and the n-word.

According to the complaint, Brown’s manager asked offensive questions about her reproductive anatomy and refused to update company documents to “reflect Ms. Brown’s chosen name, and sometimes used male pronouns to refer to her in company documents.”

Brown claims that when she reported this mistreatment to the corporate office, Circle K officials took no action and then denied her a promised promotion.

Brown was fired the day after the manager scheduled her to work a shift on Sunday during Chicago’s Pride celebration, even though this manager knew she was performing at the parade. Brown didn’t find out she had been fired until she was unable to clock in for her next shift.

Her lawyers say the harassment and termination violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the Illinois Human Rights Act. The Trump administration is currently arguing that Title VII, which bans workplace discrimination on the basis of “sex,” does not apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Brown followed procedure to call off the Sunday shift and was stunned to find that she had been fired the next day,” reads a press release from the ACLU of Illinois, which is representing Brown.

“I was in absolute shock after being fired,” Brown says in the statement. “I followed all the rules for taking off on that day so I could celebrate with my community—and they picked that day to terminate me. I felt so humiliated.”

“I was terminated because I am an African-American transgender woman and because I refused to stay quiet about the discrimination I was going through,” she continues. “The discrimination and harassment were traumatizing and needed to be called out. It was not fair.”

“Even in Illinois, discrimination against transgender people, especially trans women of color, still happens. We deserve to be respected at work just like everyone else. My hope is that this lawsuit will show that what happened to me was wrong and no one else should have to put up with it.”

“An employee cannot be fired simply because they are transgender, and they cannot be fired for speaking out about racist and transphobic harassment in the workplace,” says Carolyn Wald, LGBTQ Project staff attorney with the ACLU of Illinois. “Circle K’s actions were unacceptable and illegal. Employers should never advance the bigotry of some employees over the safety, wellbeing, and success of others. Employers must do better to support transgender employees, particularly transgender employees of color.”

Brown is seeking damages “in such amount as will reasonably compensate her for her losses, and damages for emotional distress,” as well as attorney fees and punitive damages.

A Bolingbrook Circle K manager declined a request for comment and the corporate office did not respond.

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