A 25-year-old former Bethlehem, Pennsylvania resident is suing former employer Dunkin’ Donuts over claims she was repeatedly bullied and harassed by coworkers and superiors and beaten up by customers. This behavior continued for three months without anyone at the company doing anything to address it.
According to the lawsuit, the woman’s shift supervisor refused to correctly gender her, repeatedly calling her “dude” and using “he/him” pronouns to address her. When she went to management at the South Bethlehem store, they did nothing. She was also moved to the back of the restaurant after customers refused to use her checkout lane when she worked the register and was told she couldn’t use the women’s restroom because customers “weren’t comfortable” with her being there.
The lawsuit also claims that a group of three customers came into the store earlier this year, called her a “faggot,” threatened to kill her, and physically assaulted her. She reported the incident to police and management but received little support from her manager. “If you don’t feel safe, go home,” she was reportedly told. When she left, her name was permanently removed from the schedule a few days later.
The woman filed her lawsuit under the name Jane Doe, as she fears further retribution if she discloses her name.
According to Dunkin’ Donuts, the employee was fired for taking time off without providing notice. The lawsuit claims, however, that’s not the real reason for her termination and that the company failed to follow its own policy of providing three warning letters before dismissing an employee.
Attorney Justin F. Robinette filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiff, who he says is now living in Los Angeles and is homeless. “My client was subjected to humiliation based on her gender identity and ultimately fired illegally,” Robinette told the local news website Lehigh Valley Live. “Nobody should have to endure this kind of abuse at their job and we plan to hold Dunkin’ Donuts responsible for their actions in court.”
Pennsylvania lacks explicit statewide laws prohibiting LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace, but its Human Relations Commission interprets the state's existing civil rights codes as banning bias on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in areas like employment, housing, and public accomodations.
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether or not it’s legal to fire an employee for being trans, a decision that will impact Pennsylvania and the other 28 states without statewide nondiscrimination laws.