A transgender woman who worked at a Fayetteville Bojangles’ was repeatedly subjected to derogatory and humiliating comments, according to a lawsuit filed in July by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The woman was born Jonathan Wolfe but identifies as female.
According to the lawsuit, she began working as a biscuit maker at the Owen Drive store in May 2012. She wore her short hair in a gender-neutral Afro style, wore modest makeup, artificial fingernails and a gender-neutral uniform – polo-style shirt and visor – but women’s slacks.
During her first few months, the lawsuit says, a supervisor commented on her effeminate mannerisms. Tensions escalated when she entered the store off-duty dressed as a woman.
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A series of confrontations ensued, the lawsuit says:
▪ An assistant supervisor told her “Pray to God or go to hell” and “God made woman for man.”
▪ When she was assigned to work as cashier, the supervisor instructed her to talk in a normal voice and change the way she walked to “look like a male.”
▪ When she went to the store off-duty wearing braided hair extensions, the manager said she couldn’t wear that hairstyle because she was male, and said she would be fired if she did.
The lawsuit alleges she was fired in retaliation for reporting the sexual harassment. She could not be reached for comment by the Observer.
In an answer filed in U.S. District Court, the corporation denied the claims. “Bojangles’ expressly denies it has subjected Wolfe to sexual harassment or discrimination in violation of Title VII and expressly denies that Wolfe was terminated in retaliation for purported complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from harassment based on gender identity or sexual orientation, and prohibits retaliation against employees for complaining about discrimination.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA law school reported this year that 77 percent of transgender workers in North Carolina experience discrimination. Forty-seven percent are not hired because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Sixteen percent are denied a promotion and 16 percent lose a job.
Bojangles’ denied any unlawful practices. It states that Wolfe was fired because she became “loud and disruptive and blocked ... customers from placing their orders” on an off-duty visit to the restaurant in February 2013, not long after she was told she was being transferred to another location.
Pastor: Punch sons if they act effeminate
To laughter and shouts of Amen, a Fayetteville pastor urged his congregation in 2012 to punch their sons if they see them acting effeminately.
Sean Harris, senior pastor at Berean Baptist Church, told the Observer that his sermon, which went viral, was “hyperbole in an effort to make a point.” He told his congregation that it was “taken out of context by the LGBT community.”
Here’s what he said in the sermon:
“So your little son starts acting a little girlish when he’s four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying man up, son, get that dress off of you and get outside and dig a ditch because that’s what boys do, you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and next thing you know this dude, this kid, is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed.
“The second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Okay? You’re not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you’re going to be a male.”
In a follow-up to his congregation, Harris said he does not believe physical force “is capable of fixing effeminate behavior or homosexual behavior. Parents should not punch babies or children.... I misspoke. Hopefully you understood I was speaking in a forceful manner to emphasize the degree to which gender distinctions matter to God and therefore must matter to each of us and especially parents.”
He urged them not to be “hateful toward those whose behavior is an abomination to God.” But he added that “we also cannot compromise on what we believe the Bible teaches on all sexual perversions and immorality. ... We must be tolerantly intolerant.”
He said only a portion of his sermon was posted in online stories. He said he also told the congregation in that sermon: “If you have a gay person in your house, you love them with Jesus Christ. Your job is not to be homophobic and to be rude and inconsiderate.”