Transgender Employee Settles Discrimination Lawsuit with Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart Stores Inc recently settled a lawsuit by a transgender former employee in North Carolina, Charlene Bost, 46, who accused the company of unlawfully terminating her for complaining about harassment. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and the parties submitted a joint filing agreeing to dismiss the case in federal court in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Bost filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart in December of last year, claiming her co-workers at a Kannapolis, North Carolina, Sam’s Club (owned by Wal-Mart) store called her “sir,” “that thing with an attitude” and “shim,” a slur combining “she” and “him.” Bost also said her male boss subjected her to unwanted physical advances and referred to her as “it.”
The former employee had initially sought unspecified damages and improved training to stop harassment of transgender workers at Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, which carries the title of the world’s largest retailer. Bost was employed in Kannapolis, a suburb of Charlotte.
In response to the lawsuit, company spokesperson Randy Hargrove had indicated, “Wal-Mart maintains a strong anti-discrimination policy. We support diversity and inclusion in our workforce and do not tolerate discrimination or retaliation of any kind. We disagree with the claims raised by Ms. Bost. Her termination was for performance reasons. We will respond as appropriate with the court.”
At the time of settlement, although the company still had not admitted to wrongdoing, Hargrove added, “While we have strong anti-discrimination policies, we are glad we could resolve this matter with Ms. Bost.” The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), a nonprofit that represents Bost, said their client was pleased with the outcome.
According to court documents, Bost started working at the store in March 2004 and began presenting as a woman at work four years later, in 2008. She said she was eventually terminated from her position in March 2015 in retaliation for complaining to supervisors about harassment. They believed she suffered from “gender dysphoria,” or distress with the sex she was assigned at birth. At the time of her dismissal, her file stated she was terminated for performance reasons.
Bost’s lawsuit accused the parent company of her former employer of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. A closer look at Wal-Mart’s policies would reveal that while the company had solid anti-discrimination measures in place, it didn’t enforce them as it should.
TLDEF’s former Executive Director Jillian Weiss explained at the time the lawsuit was filed, “The difficulty here is that Wal-Mart has a good policy, but when a person like Ms. Bost came forward to say she was having trouble because of the discrimination she faced, its enforcement mechanisms were insufficient. Corporations have to enforce compliance with anti-discrimination policies, not merely cite their existence.”
North Carolina is the epicenter of the long-running debate over when transgender people may use public bathrooms. Wal-Mart’s former employee sued in the same court that heard this issue weighing the legality of a North Carolina bathroom access law passed in March. That law replaced a more controversial “bathroom bill” and has since been cited by critics as being too vague.