An HIV-positive man trying to change into a woman is suing Dunkin’ Donuts and one of its franchisees after, the man alleges, managers at a Bethlehem, Pa. store allowed customers to harass and attack him, which included not referring to him as “she” and “her” and disallowing his use of the women’s bathroom.
The man said he was fired after he complained and left work to protect himself.
The federal civil rights suit, filed Nov. 8, asks for a jury trial and unspecified damages of more than $150,000. It claims harassment, hostile work environment, wrongful termination, retaliatory discharge and a failure to accommodate the plaintiff’s HIV status, among its 18 counts.
Referred to as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit, the plaintiff is described as an “HIV-positive woman of color”.
“Doe” worked at the Dunkin’ Donuts in the spring of 2018. Before he was fired, he alleges in the lawsuit, he endured epithets such as “tranny,” “n***a” and “f*ggot,” while his requests that customers, superiors and coworkers use his preferred, female name and pronouns were ignored. A shift leader also instructed him to stop using the women’s bathroom, the lawsuit says.
The alleged harassment reportedly reached its peak when three customers, including a former coworker, berated him with slurs and threatened to kill him, the lawsuit says. The former colleague also shoved him, it says.
Doe called a manager, who told him to go home if he didn’t feel safe, which he did, according to the lawsuit. Days later, it says, he was fired.
The company that owns the franchise, Triangle Doughnuts LLC, said the employee was fired for violating the company’s time-off policy, the lawsuit says.
Dunkin’ Donuts spokeswoman Michelle King declined to comment on the litigation, but said Dunkin’ Donuts locations are independently owned and that neither the plaintiff nor defendants are employed by the company. “We and our franchisees pride ourselves in our diverse workforces, and we strive to create inclusive work cultures,” King said.
Shortly after Doe took a cashier position at Bethlehem’s Dunkin’ Donuts on Fourth Street in or around March 2018, a shift leader called him by his birth name and used male pronouns to describe him, even after Doe asked her to stop, the lawsuit says. The shift leader also referred to Doe as “dude,” it says.