A bakery in Texas is facing two separate lawsuits from former employees alleging they were fired due to anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. Gilbert Johnson and Katherine Phillips told OutSmart the Dessert Gallery and Bakery in Houston fired them because Johnson is gay and Phillips is a lesbian. Johnson further alleges he was fired in part for hiring a transgender employee, who was also terminated in the apparent purge. The women-owned Dessert Gallery issued a statement denying the allegations and saying they look forward to the opportunity to present the side of the case in court.
“What we want to bring to light is that there was unlawful bias with both of these cases,” Fran Watson, an attorney and LGBTQ+ activist representing Johnson and Phillips, told the publication. “Even the best companies make mistakes, and the bias has to be minimized because you’re impacting and interacting with a diverse workforce.”
“We take seriously any allegations like those outlined in these complaints but stand firm that these allegations are simply not true,” Dessert Gallery said in a statement. “We believe the proper place to disclose the facts of this case is in the courtroom and look forward to that opportunity.”
Both employees claim that Dessert Gallery violated their rights under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court famously ruled last year in Bostock V Clayton County that workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is unconstitutional.
In the court filings, Johnson, a general manager at the time, claims he was subjected to sexualized commentary from the husband of his supervisor. He also claims his hiring duties were taken away immediately after he hired a transgender employee. Johnson further alleges things only worsened when he and Phillips defended their trans and queer employees, with staff constantly asking questions about bathroom access for the new trans worker.
Johnson promoted Phillips to shift lead as part of his assigned duties, but she was demoted one month later and terminated a month after that. She claims the reason given for her firing was she allegedly threatened to write up employees. Phillips denies the accusation.
Johnson was terminated the next day, allegedly for not completing tasks in his role as general manager, a claim he denies. The suit also alleges the transgender employee was fired, although no suit has been filed in that case.
In addition to denying the allegations leveled by Johnson and Phillips in their separate suits, Dessert Gallery noted they had a commitment to “diversity and inclusion” both at work and in the queer community.
“We have a long history of celebrating Pride and partnering with, as well as supporting, Houston’s LGBTQIA+ community,” Dessert Gallery said in their statement. OutSmart disclosed in their story that Dessert Gallery is a sponsor of their publication.
Watson said he wants to bring disinfecting sunlight to the “unlawful bias” that resulted in the illegal harassment and termination of Johnson and Phillips.
“Even the best companies make mistakes, and the bias has to be minimized because you’re impacting and interacting with a diverse workforce. Seeing that three LGBTQ people were fired in a month—and two within a day of each other—shows that inherent bias was present. We want the law to remedy that mistake.”