McDonald's to Trans Woman of Color: 'We do not hire faggots'

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) just filed a Complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations against an Orlando McDonald's restaurant for refusing to hire 17-year-old Zikerria Bellamy because she is transgender.

In July, Bellamy applied online for a Shift Manager/Crew Leader position. Later in the month when she was called in for an interview, a manager forced her to check a box indicating her sex. Bellamy recounts that when she checked "male" the manager became visibly angry. At that point Bellamy was denied an interview and later that day received a hateful voicemail from the McDonald's manager stating: "You will not get hired. We do note hire faggots. You lied to me. You told me you was a woman."

As TLDEF points out:

Zikerria's story is all too common. Transgender people face tremendous discrimination in the workplace. According to a recent survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, 47% of transgender people report being fired, or denied a job or promotion, just because of who they are.

Few protections exist for transgender people who experience employment discrimination. In 38 states, there is no law protecting transgender people from being fired because of who they are. Federal law similarly offers no job protection for transgender people.

TLDEF is asking people to spread the word about what happened to Zikerria Bellamy in order to intervene and prevent this sort of discrimination from happening to others. TLDEF would also like us to contact congress and demand that it take action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (S.1584):

At the federal level, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) (S.1584) would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, or refuse to promote an employee based on the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation at companies with fifteen or more employees. The legislation was introduced in the United States Senate on August 5, 2009. On November 5, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held the Senate’s first hearing on the latest version of ENDA. A version of ENDA was also introduced in the United States House of Representatives on June 24, 2009. The House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the measure on September 23. Little has happened since.

TLDEF recommends that we:

Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121 and ask to speak to your Representative (have your zip code handy and they'll help identify your member of Congress).

When you are connected with your Representative's office, give your name and your city and then let them know:

I am calling in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H. R. 3017/S. 1584), which will protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from job discrimination. No one deserves to be fired from their job because of who they are. No more delays--it is time to pass ENDA.

You can also tell them that you've heard about Zikerria Bellamy's case. If you get voicemail instead of a person, leave a message - they count just as much as if you reach a staff member. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you've called in the past, no problem. Call again.

There is obviously a pressing need for legislation like ENDA. Yet, as Bellamy's case illustrates, there are still other institutional and structural issues that contribute the problem of unemployment for many trans people. Certainly the job application that Bellamy filled out shows how employers as a matter of course – as opposed to bigotry – refuse to acknowledge the existence of potential trans employees. Having to mark a legal sex on a job application that is different than the sex the applicant is currently living as is itself a barrier that excludes trans people from employment. For instance, it was when Bellamy was forced by a manager to indicate her legally assigned sex on her application that she first encountered the expressed hostility of the McDonald's manager. And in the voicemail the manager claims that Bellamy "lied" to him about her sex when she identified herself as a woman. Thus, institutional factors related to McDonald's hiring system are reflected in the manager's individual bigotry – that is to say, both the system and the individual are operating on cis-biased presumptions about potential employees that by default deny the very possibility of trans people's existence.