A transgender woman said in a lawsuit Wednesday that she was called “it” and “thing” by co-workers and then wrongfully fired from a North Carolina Sam’s Club store after repeatedly complaining about harassment.
The federal lawsuit by Charlene Bost seeks unspecified monetary damages and asks the court to order the big box retailer to train employees to prevent future harassment of transgender workers. It says Bost was wrongfully fired in 2015 from the Kannapolis store in retaliation for her complaints.
Transgender people around the country are increasingly taking employers or schools to court to demand that their rights be protected, and North Carolina has been the site of a protracted legal battle over state laws governing which restrooms transgender people can use.
The executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represents Bost, said legal battles over transgender employee rights are becoming more common.“Given the increase in the number of transgender people who are coming out, particularly at earlier and earlier ages, I think we’re going to see many more claims in the future for discrimination against transgender people,” said Jillian Weiss, the fund’s executive director, in an interview. Weiss added that it’s important for “employers to recognize that prejudice still exists among their employees.”
Bost hadn’t yet transitioned to life as a woman when she began working in 2004 at a Sam’s Club location about 25 miles northeast of Charlotte. Bost said she received praise and was promoted to supervisor before she began to express her feminine identity at work in 2008.
The lawsuit said the harassment by co-workers and multiple managers began around that time and escalated as Bost began wearing her hair longer and adding makeup to her appearance.
Bost, who’s now 46, said she was repeatedly harassed by a man who became her direct supervisor when he was promoted to assistant manager in 2014. The lawsuit said he called her “it” in front of other employees.