by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) filed a complaint on December 7 with the Florida Commission on Human Relations against an Orlando, Florida McDonald's for refusing to hire a Transgender woman, 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy.
On July 10, Bellamy applied online for a position as a shift manager or crew leader at McDonald's. She did not complete the section that asks applicants about their gender. On July 28, a manager asked her to come in for an in-person interview. When Bellamy met the manager and he realized she is Transgender, he no longer wanted to interview her.
Determined, Bellamy says she visited a second manager in the restaurant on July 28. The second manager insisted she fill in the gender field on the application, even though the online application assures viewers that there is no onus associated with leaving the field blank. When Bellamy checked off the "male" option she said the manager "was upset. I seen the anger, you know, like you can tell when someone gets upset." This manager reportedly told her he "didn't have time for this." He followed up his comments with a scathing voice mail message to Bellamy a few hours later:
"It doesn't matter how many times you go down there, you will not get hired. & You lied to me. & You told me you was a woman. & We don't hire faggots."
This case, filed by TLDEF on Bellamy's behalf, has implications at both the state and national level. TLDEF says that, in Florida, there exists no law that explicitly addresses discrimination based on gender identity. Florida administrative agencies, however, have ruled that Transgender people are protected by the Florida Human Rights Act's prohibitions on sex and disability discrimination.
In 38 states where Transgender people are not protected against employment discrimination, a Trans applicant could receive the same message or be fired because of who they are, and there is often little that he or she could do about it.
The lack of legal protections has immediate ramifications. TLDEF cites a recent survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality which found that 47% of Transgender people report being fired, or denied a job or promotion simply because of who they are.
In Washington State, Transgender people are protected under Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Act of 2006, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation - including gender expression. Initially, the victim would file a complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission.
According to TLDEF, federal law offers no job protection for Transgender people.
The latest federal legislation, The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in the United States Senate on August 5. If the measure becomes law, ENDA would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote an employee based on the person's gender identity or sexual orientation at companies with 15 or more employees.
On November 5, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held the Senate's first hearing on the latest version of ENDA.
A version of ENDA was also introduced in the United States House of Representatives on June 24. The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the measure in September.
A 2007 survey showed that 72% of Americans agree that "fairness is a basic American value and employment decisions should be based solely on qualifications and job performance, including for Transgender people." That's an 11% increase in support since 2002, when a similar poll found that only 61% of Americans said that we need laws to protect Transgender people from discrimination.
Bellamy said her treatment made her "very upset," but she added she hopes others don't share her experience. She said she hopes McDonald's will amend its employment policies to protect its Transgender applicants and employees as well as train its employees on how to appropriately deal with LGBT issues.
"Times are hard and if you have a job opening, you shouldn't select based on gender or who someone is," Bellamy said. "I just wanted to go in and make an honest living and provide for myself. Something like this doesn't need to happen. I don't want McDonald's to get away with this."
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