Lawsuit filed against Bojangles' for treatment of transgender Fayetteville employee
Posted July 6, 2016 6:33 p.m. EDT
Updated July 6, 2016 10:01 p.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — The federal government on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Bojangles’ Restaurants Inc., claiming that a transgender woman was sexually harassed while employed at a Fayetteville restaurant.
According to the complaint by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 when Jonathan Wolfe, who identifies as a woman, was subjected to a hostile work environment because of her gender identity.
The lawsuit states that Wolfe began working as a biscuit maker at the Bojangles’ on Owen Drive in May 2012 and wore makeup and artificial fingernails.
The lawsuit says that Wolfe’s supervisors made comments about Wolfe’s effeminate mannerisms and told her that she was not welcome in the store when she visited on her day off dressed as a woman. After that incident, a supervisor forbade Wolfe from wearing makeup or false fingernails while on duty.
According to the complaint, Wolfe’s supervisor made comments telling her to “pray to God or go to hell” and that “God made woman for man.”
In January 2013, Wolfe was moved to a cashier position at the front of the store and was told by her supervisor to change her voice, walk and behavior so that she would “look like a male,” the lawsuit states. Shortly after, Wolfe arrived at the store wearing braided extensions in her hair, and the supervisor told Wolfe she would be fired if she did not remove them, according to the suit.
The lawsuit claims that Wolfe complained several times to Bojangles’ management about the harassment, but no action was taken.
Following the complaints, Wolfe was informed that she would be involuntarily transferred to a Bojangles’ restaurant on Raeford Road, but she objected to the transfer.
Several days later, she entered the Owen Drive store as a customer and was told to leave, prompting a call to the Bojangles’ employee hotline, according to the lawsuit. Following that call, Wolfe’s supervisor fired her.
Bojangles spokesman Brian Little says the company a policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and all other protected characteristics. He says Bojangles' decision to terminate Wolfe because of insubordination and other misconduct rather than sex or gender identity.
The lawsuit is seeking back pay, damages and a court order barring discriminatory actions by Bojangles’ and its employees.