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NYC Litigation Blog

Friday, March 20, 2020

Employees at Airport Starbucks Allege Discrimination

What cause of action do transgender employees have against their employers if they experience discrimination?

Starbucks paints itself as a place of acceptance for everyone. One of the latest ad campaigns released by Starbucks depicts the coffee shop as a safe place for transgender customers. Despite its public perception, employees at some Starbucks locations have alleged that they have not been treated with acceptance. Transgender employees at Starbucks locations in airports nationwide claim they have experienced misgendering and use of their former name. Our NYC employment discrimination lawyers discuss the allegations lodged against Starbucks' airport locations and the rights of transgender employees below.

HMSHost’s Transgender Employees Not Afforded the Some Benefits

HMSHost is a large airport food service company that has partnered with Starbucks since 1991 to operate coffee shops using the Starbucks' name in airports across the country. Starbucks offers transgender employees benefits like health insurance for their partners and technology which ensures a transgender employee’s chosen name is used, but HMSHost employees are not treated the same.

One transgender HMSHost employee explains that he had been working at Starbucks prior to transitioning. When he transitioned, he informed his managers and coworkers of his chosen name. However, he claims his supervisors continued to use his wrong name and disciplined him more severely than other employees. He and other employees state that Starbucks continues to use their given names, demanding legal proof of a name change, which many people have not done.

Some employees are now filing actions for discrimination against HMSHost. Sadly, the transgender HMSHost employees are far from alone in experiencing discrimination in the workplace. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in four transgender people have lost their job due to bias and a full three-fourths of transgender employees have experienced discrimination in the workplace.

The United States Supreme Court is currently deciding on whether federal laws afford protections to transgender employees against discrimination. Several states have passed laws that protect transgender employees against discrimination, such as that described by HMSHost employees. For now, transgender employees who have experienced discrimination can bring a cause of action based on state law, and can attempt to file a claim based on federal sex discrimination as well. Each circuit has taken a different stance on the matter. The High Court should soon offer clarification on the matter on the federal side.


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