The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued a private business for sex discrimination and harassment after a male employee — who announced he was switching genders to become a woman — was barred from using the women’s restroom and was referred to with male pronouns by his coworkers.
Deluxe Financial Services, a Minnesota-based company that helps small businesses with marketing, denied that it violated any anti-discrimination laws but agreed to settle the case for $115,000 in order to avoid further costs of litigation, according to the settlement agreement.
The male employee, who now goes by the name Britney Austin, publicly presented himself as male when he was hired by Deluxe Financial but later opted to begin identifying as a woman.
According to a press release from last summer — when the EEOC filed the lawsuit — Austin’s coworkers subjected him to a “hostile work environment,” such as “intentionally using the wrong gender pronouns to refer to [him].”
In response, Austin hired lawyer Jillian T. Weiss, whose law practice specializes in suing people for allegedly discriminating against transgenders, to team up with the EEOC against Deluxe Financial, seeking unspecified monetary damages.
The two parties arrived at a settlement in January 2016, requiring the company to shell out $115,000 to Austin and his attorneys within five days of the agreement.
Under the terms of the settlement, the company is also required to allow any future transgender employees to use the bathroom of their choice and prohibit the “intentional misgendering of transgender employees.”
Additionally, the company is required to ensure that “persons present at any of the Deluxe’s facilities and locations” — including customers — will not engage in “prohibited behavior” against transgender persons.
The settlement also required the company to expunge and destroy any “any poor evaluations, discipline, or discharge documents after September 1, 2010” from Austin’s personnel file and provide a “neutral reference” to any future “prospective employer” looking into hiring Austin.
Deluxe Financial is also prohibited from mentioning the lawsuit to any of Austin’s future employers, and was required to issue a letter of apology to him.
According to the EEOC, the lawsuit is part of the agency’s plan to “strategically enforce” laws against workplace discrimination.
The EEOC’s website warns businesses that not permitting employees to choose which bathroom to use is one example of “LGBT-related sex discrimination,” as is failing to use the name and gender pronoun of an employee’s choice.