Macy’s Employee Fired for Her Refusal to Comply with Its LGBT Policy

by Mike Mintz on December 12, 2011 · 0 comments

in martindale.com

Holiday shopping seems to make some people all warm and tingly inside.  Maybe it’s the sparkling lights, the cheerful decorations or Santa’s annual visit to their local mall that get them in the spirit.  I personally think it’s those catchy Christmas carols!

“Peace on earth and good will toward men,” right?  Well, that is, except toward men, who self-identify as women, according to a former Macy’s employee.

In recent news, a former Macy’s employee cautiously watched a transgender customer shopping in the women’s clothing department.  The customer was dressed in women’s clothes and wearing makeup, but, to the employee, the customer appeared to be male.  When the customer attempted to enter the women’s dressing room, the employee stopped the customer and accused her of being a man.  The customer insisted that she was a woman and that she should be permitted to use the women’s dressing room, pursuant to Macy’s LGBT policy.

Macy’s, indeed, has a LGBT policy, whereby transgender individuals are permitted to change in whichever gender dressing room they feel comfortable.  However, the employee refused to comply with this policy, claiming that the policy violates her religious beliefs, – that is Christianity – which prevent her from recognizing transgender individuals.

For her refusal to comply with the company policy, Macy’s terminated the employee.  In response to her termination, the employee has now filed a complaint with the Federal Employment Commission, claiming that she was terminated on the basis of her religion, in violation of federal civil rights and religious discrimination laws.  It’s the case of religious discrimination versus sexual orientation/identification discrimination.  Ah, this should certainly be a Christmas to remember…for Macy’s anyway.

Assuming that Christianity does, in fact, prevent the employee from recognizing transgender individuals or from complying with Macy’s LGBT policy (which, to be sure, I highly doubt), the employee’s case should nonetheless be dismissed.  Religious employment discrimination laws require an employee to request an accommodation from his employer if a certain job requirement or policy interferes with her religion.  Here, the employee makes no allegation that she objected to Macy’s LGBT policy before the date of the incident or that she requested a religious accommodation, regarding the policy.  Had she made such a request, Macy’s could have easily placed the employee in a department of its store without dressing rooms.

An employer can’t solve a problem, which it doesn’t know exists.  However, if your company has an office policy, which may ruffle the feathers of its employees, be proactive.  Ensure that each employee has read and understands the policy and make them sign an agreement promising to comply with it.  This will provide your employees with ample opportunity to object to the policy based on their religious convictions and to request an accommodation, if they feel so inclined.  Prevent lawsuits like this, and let your workforce experience a little peace on earth all year round.

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