Transgender ex-cashier sues Dunkin' Donuts, saying managers let coworkers and patrons harass her, then fired her

A transgender woman is suing Dunkin' Donuts and one of its Pennsylvania franchisees after, the woman alleges, managers at a Bethlehem store allowed customers...

Posted: Nov 14, 2019 10:06 AM

A transgender woman is suing Dunkin' Donuts and one of its Pennsylvania franchisees after, the woman alleges, managers at a Bethlehem store allowed customers to harass and attack her, then fired her when she complained and left work to protect herself.

The federal civil rights lawsuit, filed Friday in Pennsylvania's eastern district, requests a jury trial and unspecified damages of more than $150,000. It outlines claims of harassment, a hostile work environment, wrongful termination, retaliatory discharge and a failure to accommodate her HIV status, among its 18 counts.

Referred to as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, the plaintiff is described as an HIV-positive woman of color.

Doe worked at the Dunkin' Donuts in the spring of 2018. Before she was fired, she alleges in the lawsuit, she endured epithets such as "tranny," "n***a" and "f*ggot," while her requests that customers, superiors and coworkers use her preferred name and pronouns were ignored. A shift leader also instructed her to stop using the women's bathroom, the lawsuit says.

The alleged harassment reached its peak when three customers, including a former coworker, berated her with slurs and threatened to kill her, the lawsuit says. The former colleague also shoved her, it says.

Doe called her manager, who told her to go home if she didn't feel safe, which she did, according to the lawsuit. Days later, it says, she was fired.

Dunkin' Donuts values diversity, company says

The company that owns the franchise, Triangle Doughnuts LLC, said she was fired for violating the company's time-off policy, the lawsuit says.

Two numbers linked to Triangle Doughnuts were both disconnected Tuesday. Another number for Triangle's owner, listed in a Dunkin' Donuts franchise disclosure document, was also disconnected.

Dunkin' Donuts spokeswoman Michelle King declined to comment on the litigation, but said Dunkin' Donuts locations are independently owned and that neither the plaintiff nor defendants are employed by the company. King declined to provide contact information for Triangle Doughnuts' offices.

"We and our franchisees pride ourselves in our diverse workforces, and we strive to create inclusive work cultures. Our franchisees are required by their franchise agreement to comply with all applicable laws," a corporate statement said.

Bethlehem attorney Victor Scomillio, who court documents say represents the defendants, did not return a phone message.

Lawsuit alleges misgendering, slurs

Shortly after Doe took a cashier position at Bethlehem's Dunkin' Donuts on Fourth Street in or around March 2018, a shift leader called her by her birth name and used male pronouns to describe her, even after Doe asked her to stop, the lawsuit says. The shift leader also referred to Doe as "dude," it says.

The assistant manager and manager also misgendered her, despite her repeated requests to stop, Doe alleges.

Customers did the same, and when Doe corrected them, one customer complained to management that patrons shouldn't have to use Doe's preferred pronouns because Doe was "not a girl," which managers did not contest, the lawsuit says.

In another incident, patrons also said they didn't want "him" serving them, according to the lawsuit. Rather than defend their employee, the shift leader and assistant manager moved her to the back of the shop, out of view of the customers, the lawsuit says.

After the shift leader told Doe to stop using the women's bathroom -- saying, "They don't feel comfortable with you going in there" -- the harassment intensified, the lawsuit alleges.

A coworker "tried to get in Doe's face aggressively," called her "ni**a" and threatened to beat her up, according to the lawsuit. Customers, including a former coworker, subjected Doe to homophobic slurs and said, "I'll kill your b*tch a**," it says.

After the former coworker pushed her, Doe reported the incident to police and called her manager, who told her, "If you don't feel safe, go home," the lawsuit says. Doe did just that, it says.

Capt. Benjamin Hackett of the Bethlehem Police Department told CNN he could not find an incident report from April or May 2018 matching Doe's complaint, but he noted that this particular Dunkin' Donuts is situated in a bar district and is the subject of numerous calls to police. Without Doe's actual name, it would be difficult to find a report, he said.

Employer says Doe violated company policy

In the days after Doe called police and left work, the lawsuit says, the manager informed Doe she no longer worked at Dunkin'.

After Doe filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the manager told the commission that employees shouldn't correct customers because the customer is always right, the lawsuit says.

"I did not and will not correct my customers," the manager told the commission, according to the lawsuit.

Triangle Doughnuts told the commission that Doe was fired for violating the company policy that employees must request time off two weeks in advance, the lawsuit says.

Doe does not believe this is the actual cause for her firing, according to the lawsuit. Rather, she feels her discharge was motivated by her sex, her gender identity and/or gender stereotyping, and her attempts to rebuff customers and fellow employees, the lawsuit says.

Triangle Doughnuts' time-off policy is problematic, however, according to the lawsuit, because HIV-positive people may face complications they can't foresee two weeks in advance. Triangle also has no anti-retaliation policy, the lawsuit says.

The EEOC sent Doe a notice of her right to sue her former employer last month, saying it was "terminating the processing of this charge."

Asked to elaborate, spokesman James Ryan said EEOC complaints are confidential and the commission is prohibited from commenting on them. He did not provide an answer to a followup email requesting information on how the commission decides to terminate a charge and what a termination entails.

Terre Haute
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 62°
Robinson
Clear
56° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 56°
Indianapolis
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 60°
Rockville
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 60°
Casey
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 62°
Brazil
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 62°
Marshall
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 62°
Partly cloudy & breezy night
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Saturday Evening Forecast

Image

Saturday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Barr-Reeve vs Loogootee 9-25-20 ITZ

Image

Harrison vs Vin Lin ITZ 9-25-20

Image

West Washington vs North Central ITZ 9-25-20

Image

Riverton Parke vs Cloverdale ITZ 9-25-20

Image

Linton vs North Daviess ITZ 9-25-20

Image

Indy Lutheran vs Northview ITZ 9-25-20

Image

OV vs Sullivan ITZ 9-25-20

Image

SP vs WV ITZ 9-25-20

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 288773

Reported Deaths: 8832
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1430845203
DuPage17393560
Lake16794487
Will13917378
Kane13065326
St. Clair6574190
Winnebago5848149
Madison5666136
Champaign464520
McHenry4567118
Peoria345949
McLean326023
Rock Island297176
Kankakee273177
Unassigned2538244
Sangamon240145
Kendall199725
Tazewell174923
LaSalle170157
DeKalb156738
Macon150344
Coles145030
Williamson139045
Jackson125924
Clinton115320
Boone111323
Adams111210
Randolph93711
Effingham8653
Vermilion7454
Whiteside73820
Ogle6956
Monroe67315
Grundy6675
Henry6645
Morgan65523
Knox6483
Bureau63711
Jefferson60038
Marion5480
Macoupin5407
Christian53711
Franklin5303
Stephenson5176
Union51424
McDonough48015
Logan4611
Crawford4403
Woodford4206
Fayette4063
Cass39511
Jersey39015
Livingston3886
Shelby3854
Montgomery37113
Lee3681
Iroquois36419
Perry34715
Saline3344
Warren3302
Bond3225
Douglas3087
Wayne2785
Jo Daviess2592
Lawrence2542
Carroll2274
Greene22611
Cumberland2155
Hancock2153
Moultrie2143
Jasper2119
Washington2101
Richland2055
Fulton1740
Pulaski1741
Clark1722
White1670
Johnson1530
Clay1510
Wabash1513
Mason1451
Mercer1375
Piatt1370
Pike1271
Menard1251
De Witt1161
Edgar1138
Massac1092
Ford1045
Marshall1010
Alexander801
Scott780
Gallatin722
Hamilton681
Henderson660
Edwards630
Brown590
Calhoun590
Putnam570
Stark552
Schuyler490
Hardin390
Pope291
Out of IL30

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 116549

Reported Deaths: 3577
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21322766
Lake10566323
Elkhart6623111
St. Joseph6488109
Allen6244203
Hamilton4893109
Vanderburgh365231
Hendricks2741123
Monroe259836
Tippecanoe248313
Johnson2328124
Clark222757
Porter215447
Delaware196062
Cass19509
Vigo183527
Madison167075
LaPorte144440
Floyd137063
Warrick133039
Howard131363
Kosciusko121817
Bartholomew117057
Marshall100724
Boone98146
Dubois97919
Hancock93043
Grant92534
Noble91532
Henry80326
Wayne76114
Jackson7589
Morgan72438
Shelby67429
Daviess67228
Dearborn66428
LaGrange63811
Clinton60214
Harrison58224
Putnam57912
Gibson5225
Knox5179
Lawrence51229
Montgomery51121
White48614
DeKalb48311
Decatur45839
Miami4363
Greene42635
Fayette42213
Jasper3962
Steuben3857
Scott37711
Sullivan33712
Posey3350
Jennings31412
Franklin30925
Clay3015
Ripley2988
Orange28824
Whitley2766
Carroll27513
Wabash2688
Adams2663
Washington2661
Starke2647
Wells2634
Jefferson2483
Spencer2463
Fulton2412
Huntington2363
Tipton22722
Perry21913
Randolph2167
Jay1850
Newton17311
Owen1691
Martin1660
Rush1554
Pike1511
Vermillion1300
Fountain1272
Blackford1193
Pulaski1131
Crawford1070
Brown1043
Parke1002
Benton870
Union790
Ohio787
Switzerland690
Warren401
Unassigned0226