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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 18 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 29
Transgender employee gets apology from Pagliacci Pizza - Fired after complaining about customer
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Transgender employee gets apology from Pagliacci Pizza - Fired after complaining about customer

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Dylan Paul says she is 'happy' with an apology from her former boss, Matt Galvin of Pagliacci Pizza, after she was fired July 11 in a dispute over how to deal with a disrespectful customer.

'After speaking with Matt,' she told SGN, 'he seems like he's genuinely invested in making this right, and committed to finding out how to work with the Trans community.'

Paul had worked at Pagliacci's Broadway location for more than a year. On July 7, she said goodbye to a regular customer, but when the customer replied, he called her 'man.'

'It's ma'am, actually,' Paul responded. The customer laughed at her and left.

On July 11, the customer returned, and Paul approached him.

'The last time you were in here I corrected you on my gender and you laughed at me,' she says she told the man. 'That was really rude, and I'd like you to apologize.'

'I don't really care what's happening in your life, man, I just need my pizza,' he answered.

'I just need to be respected in my place of work,' Paul said, 'and I reserve the right to refuse service to you.'

Paul told her managers about the incident, and they instructed her to go to the back of the store and let other employees wait on the man in the future. Paul was disappointed with the managers' response. She wanted them to bar the customer from the store, she says. She then decided to give her two weeks notice, but instead she was handed her pink slip.

Paul was outraged, and thought about filing a complaint with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights, the city agency where employees may file complaints for discrimination and harassment on the job. She reconsidered only after hearing from Pagliacci owner Matt Galvin.

Pagliacci apologizes
'I feel like the managers tried to do right by removing Dylan from the situation,' Galvin told SGN, 'but they didn't deal with the larger context. I'm just happy we came to a conclusion where Dylan feels OK.'

Galvin called Paul and apologized to her, offering her job back, or two weeks pay in acknowledgement of her intent to give two weeks notice.

'I respect him for giving me those options,' Paul told SGN. 'I still feel really betrayed by the managers. Right now I'm happy with his response and the fact he reached out to me and the Gender Justice League.'

One of Galvin's efforts to help correct the situation was to ask Elaine Wylie of the Transgender rights group Gender Justice League to do a 'Trans 101' training for his employees and managers.

'If you had told me six months ago that I would be in the middle of something like this, I would have been shocked,' Galvin told SGN. 'We're a Trans-friendly place, we have a very diverse and eclectic workforce; it's who we are, its part of Pagliacci's culture.

'I guess I kind of became passive. Training and communication needs to be ongoing. It's a nonstop process.'

Office of Civil Rights advice
Elliott Bronstein of the Seattle Office of Civil Rights agrees.

'It's important to do a little proactive work,' Bronstein told SGN. 'Have policies in place. Have training. You don't want the first time you think of these issues to be when you already have a situation on your hands.'

Bronstein said employees who have complaints about gender or sexual orientation bias can call his office at 206-684-4500. They will then be scheduled for an interview with an Intake Investigator who will determine if the employee's complaints could lead to formal charges being filed.

'We're not the person's attorney,' Bronstein cautioned. 'We can't advise them, but we can tell them whether a charge could be filed. It's ultimately up to the individual what to do.'

Bronstein says his agency doesn't have a manual, or formal protocols to guide employers, but he did offer some suggestions for dealing with similar situations:

'First, listen to the employee,' he said. 'Ask the employee what she or he would like to see happen to resolve the problem. That doesn't mean you're committing to do that very thing, it just helps establish where the employee is at.

'For managers, talk to your own supervisor or the owner. It always helps to know what your higher-up is thinking. There may be policies that you're not aware of. In Dylan's case, there wouldn't have been a gap if the managers had checked in with the owner.'

Speak up!
As for Paul, she is considering jobs with other food service companies, but ultimately she wants to be a welder. She is enrolled in an apprenticeship program at South Seattle Community College.

'I decided to enroll last summer,' she told SGN. 'It's an awesome trade to learn. You'll always work, and you can work just about anywhere.'

Asked if the work environment in the building trades was more or less open to Trans people than Pagliacci's Paul replied that 'it's been kind of a battle. It's a very different culture in skilled labor.

'But I've met a lot of other Lesbians who have been very supportive. They've really advocated for me and my girlfriend.'

As for advice to other employees who might encounter similar workplace problems, Paul says 'Speak up! Talk with others. Let people know. It's better to speak up than to let people disrespect you.'

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