At a Chick-fil-A franchise in Decatur, Georgia, Erin Taylor was undergoing training to become the director of operations. She alleged in a lawsuit that three months after coming out about coworkers harassing her, she was dismissed. She spoke candidly to Insider about the psychological and physical effects of the encounter. Join our weekday newsletter list to receive original analysis, news, and trends in your inbox. After holding a number of positions in the food service industry, Erin Taylor intended to advance her career by taking a position as director of operations at a franchise Chick-fil-A in Decatur, Georgia. Taylor, a transgender woman, was instead abruptly fired after three months on the job and was rapidly subjected to sexual harassment. According to a wrongful termination and discrimination lawsuit filed against the franchise, which is not owned by Chik-fil-A Inc., on June 29 , higher management said that receiving the remarks “should be an honor.”
Attorneys for franchisee Joe Engert, who runs the eatery under the name IJE Hospitality LLC, have refuted the accusations and vowed to contest them in court.
In an interview with Insider, Taylor claimed that while looking for her next job, she has subsequently faced homelessness, sleeping on couches with friends or in her car, and has been unable to pay for gender-affirming therapy.
She claimed, “I didn’t have the bare minimum longer to provide for and to take care of myself. “I have to obtain bloodwork for my hormone journey every three months, which costs thousands of dollars in one visit.”
She talked openly about her experience working at the fast food business, including how she repeatedly attempted to defuse the issue by speaking with higher management and coworkers, as well as how she is still coping with the effects of her unexpected termination.
She said, “Fear is all that has stayed with me.” Concern for my own safety, fear that my coworkers would take revenge, even after I told my story.
“A HONOR” According to the lawsuit, which was submitted in the District Court for Northern Georgia using Taylor’s legal name, harassment began the moment she started working there. With roughly ten employees present, a coworker called out to her from across the kitchen, asking who she was and what her name was. She claimed she was non-engaged at first. Taylor remarked, “I just pretended like I didn’t care and continued on.” Another coworker then joined in, this time coming over to Taylor “quite aggressively,” almost as if he were a wingman for his friend, Taylor claimed. Additionally, the lawsuit describes obscene comments allegedly made to Taylor in front of other workers and management. Taylor told her colleague that she was not interested and that she wanted to keep things professional.
“What’s wrong with my friend? was the reply. Do you believe you’re too talented for him?” stated Taylor. Of course, there is also swearing going on at the same time.
Considering that Taylor was the director of operations, these interactions between coworkers persisted until several female staff members intervened and instructed the males to leave Taylor alone, including the younger sister of one of the employees who was allegedly harassing Taylor. Another employee at the same Chick-fil-A is the younger sister.
“She said no, damn you all, they cried. She expressed her lack of interest “said Taylor.
As soon as the incident occurred, Taylor went to her immediate supervisor to report it; however, she was advised to speak with Engert, the franchise owner, according to the lawsuit.
Taylor came out as transgender and told them what had happened to her coworkers in a meeting with Engert and a kitchen director.
Taylor claimed that Engert mentioned in passing that it “should be an honor” for a transgender woman that “someone liked her enough to hit on her” toward the end of their conversation.
Taylor remarked, “I just sort of thought, I can’t believe he said that to me.”
Insider contacted Engert for comment regarding Taylor’s claims, but Engert did not answer.
IJE Hospitality’s attorneys disputed many of Taylor’s allegations in their response to the case. It disputes that Taylor was singled out by a coworker on her first day of work, as well as some of the comments made against her and the conversation Engert and Taylor had after the event.
IJE Hospitality said it would contest the allegations made by Taylor in her lawsuit in a statement sent to Insider via email but did not explicitly address them.
The email stated that IJE Hospitality “does not discriminate or harass, or tolerate discrimination or harassment, on the basis of any protected characteristic, including sex or gender identity” and that the company has strict policies and procedures to prevent harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. “IJE Hospitality is dedicated to establishing and preserving an environment at work that cherishes each employee. IJE Hospitality will keep fighting these allegations in court.”
‘LIKE NIGHT AND DAY’ Taylor claimed that after Engert spoke to the colleague about the event, things at work deteriorated.
It was like day and night, she remarked.
In front of other employees, the same individual who Engert allegedly addressed continued to harass Taylor while using homophobic obscenities. The lawsuit claimed that some intentionally misgendered their coworker. And according to Taylor, one coworker questioned Taylor about whether she was “one of those.”
Threats to her life were another type of harassment. After reporting the event to the police, Taylor said that management had deemed it to be “a little bit extreme.”
Taylor was abruptly let go from her position after working there for three months. She told Insider that it took place on the day she scheduled a meeting with management to discuss how they could enhance working conditions.
As soon as the conversation began, he stated, “You know, I don’t think this is the ideal fit for you,” Taylor recalled. I remained silent.
A follow-up request for Engert’s attorneys to discuss each of Taylor’s allegations was not answered.
STUCK IN THE PHASE OF REBUILDING Taylor claimed that months after being dismissed, she experienced homelessness and that she is still battling with her financial burdens, worry, and sadness. There are days when I just start crying because I consider what people have said to me, said Taylor. Taylor admitted that since her previous job, she has occasionally had to spend the night at a friend’s house or in her car. Additionally, she stopped following her hormone therapy and blood tests. Taylor, who started her transition three years ago, is unable to continue obtaining gender-affirming care due to the cost.
During those years, Taylor held a variety of food service-related employment. She said, however, that she had never encountered harassment on the scale she did at Chick-fil-A. Taylor claimed that she had previously encountered transphobic statements outside of the workplace but never to this degree.
Her experience is by no means unique. Nearly half of respondents who identified as transgender in a survey of 935 LGBT workers conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law Williams Institute said they had encountered some form of discrimination at work, whether it took the form of being fired or not being hired due to their identity.
In an effort to recover a sense of security, Taylor currently feels as though she is locked in a “rebuilding phase” of her life. She was horrified by her encounter at Chick-fil-A, though.
Is this how life will be for me moving ahead as a trans woman? she questioned. Is this something I’ll have to deal with forever? At first, Taylor viewed her position at Chick-fil-A as a chance to either buy a franchise or go to the corporate side and work as a consultant for the business. But Taylor has a request for wherever she goes next.
I’m not requesting that anyone alter their beliefs or ideals, she said. “As a trans woman or a woman of trans experience, all I seek is to be able to go about my daily business without worrying about my safety.”