Barnes & Noble Lawsuit

| May 18, 2015
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Barnes & Noble booksellers is being sued for discrimination by Victoria Ramirez, a Transwoman who was, according to the suit, wrongfully terminated. Barnes & Noble has for seven years received a “perfect score” on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. I have previously mentioned that I work for a bookstore chain, though I will not say which one. That said, I know MANY people at Barnes & Noble and am quite familiar with their policies. Full details of the suit, including a PDF of the legal documents are HERE.

People who have been reading my column and/or blog for a while know that I transitioned to Full Time as a woman on the job. It was a very scary yet affirming experience. I had all the fears that can be imagined, including being fired on the spot. That didn’t happen. I must emphasize that the management of my store as well as the company in New York have been behind my transition 100%. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive place. And the staff have been amazing.

Sophie posing

Sophie poses at Barnes and Noble, April 2013

So what happened in the store that this person worked? The brief to which I linked has the whole story written in legalese. Here’s the summary, according to the sworn deposition Remember, I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Victoria Ramirez worked her way through college at Barnes & Noble (B&N) and worked well enough to be promoted to a merchandise manager. Her father was gravely ill, and she asked to help care for him as allowed under California law. The manager gave her a hard time. This began a spiral of retaliation. When Victoria told her manager she wished to transition, she was told she could not do so, and to “think of the children.” Here’s where it gets weird. Victoria contacted the district manager AND regional HR director about this as well. The regional HR director said they didn’t know of any B&N policies for transition. I can say with all certainty that he was wrong. B&N HAS those policies and the head office would’ve sent them out upon request.

Eventually, Victoria suffered debilitating panic attacks and was forced to take medical leave on orders from her doctor. When she tried to extend that leave, as allowed by California law, she was fired.

So. Is there more to the story? Almost certainly. Is Ms. Ramirez totally blameless? I don’t know as I wasn’t there. I am told that Huntington Beach is a tea party paradise and that people there are VERY conservative. But I work in a VERY rich, conservative area, and my store backed me 100%, as I said before. So it has to be more than that.

Doesn’t it?

If you read the brief, you’ll see that the Manager, the District Manager, and the HR director were all named in the suit in addition to the company. All of those people undertook an anti-discrimination/harassment course, as is required of every employee in a supervisory capability. This course specifically covers Transgender. So they can’t say they were ignorant of B&N’s WRITTEN policies.

So. What will happen next? This is my educated guess. B&N will settle this one out of court. Victoria may or may not be offered re-employment. However, I’d bet the mortgage that the managers involved will no longer be employed by B&N, at least the store manager. The district manager and regional HR director will probably keep their jobs. Will B&N defend them, as these people are named in the suit? Doubtful. That said, I’m sure some right-wing “family values” group will step up and offer legal services for free. Ms. Ramirez appears to have a case, and I think she will win.

I wish Victoria Ramirez all the best. I hope her transition goes peacefully from here. This is a teaching moment not just for B&N, but for ALL companies. We TG’s are here to stay, and we are hard workers like everyone else. We’re not asking for anything more than the same rights afforded to everyone else. We want to live our lives, work and play, like everyone else.

Why does that seem so hard for “everyone else” to understand?

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Category: Legal, Transgender Community News

Sophie Lynne

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