Transgender Woman Sues Sam’s Club for Alleged Discrimination

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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On December 27, 2017, Charlene Bost sued Walmart Inc. in federal court for being wrongfully fired after making multiple complaints about harassment in the workplace. Bost, a 46-year-old transgender woman, alleged that her coworkers and supervisors referred to her as “it,” “thing” and “shim,” a slur combing “she” and “him,” during her employment at a Sam’s Club in the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. According to the lawsuit, one of Bost’s male bosses even subjected her to unwanted physical advances.

Plaintiff started working for Sam’s Club in 2004 prior to beginning her transition into life as a woman. During this period, she claims to have received an abundance of praise for her work and was even promoted to supervisor. However in 2008, when Plaintiffs’ physical transition commenced, the alleged harassment by her coworkers and managers consequently ensued. In 2014, a coworker told a customer, “here comes that thing with an attitude,” as the plaintiff walked by. One of her direct supervisors repeatedly degraded the plaintiff in front of her coworkers by referring to her as “it,” and behind closed doors continually attempted to force unwarranted sexual advances upon her.

Plaintiff took her case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2014 while the harassment was still ongoing, but was fired in 2015 before the EEOC could rule on the matter. Plaintiff claims this was retaliatory behavior. In July 2017, , the commission ultimately decided that there was sufficient evidence supporting the plaintiff’s claim of a hostile work environment, despite Sam Club’s fervent denial of the plaintiffs’ account of events, and subsequently recognized her right to sue the company.

Nevertheless, Walmart Stores Inc., the parent company of Sam’s Club, continues to dispute the plaintiffs’ allegations. According to a spokesperson for the company, “her termination was for performance reasons” and the company “maintains a strong anti-discrimination policy.”

Jillian Weiss, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. in New York, through which Bost’s lawsuit was filed, commented that Walmart has a “good policy,” but further contended that “corporations have to enforce compliance with anti-discrimination policies, not merely cite their existence.”

In the same court that struck down the infamous “Bathroom Bill,” which required transgender individuals in North Carolina to use bathroom facilities according to the gender on their birth certificate,Plaintiff is seeking an unspecified monetary sum and has asked the court to order the company to implement a training program for employees to prevent future harassment of transgender employees.

The case is Bost v. Sam’s East Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Middle District of North Carolina, No. 17-01148

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