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North Carolina transgender woman sues for harassment, retaliation

North Carolina has been the center of controversy over transgender people's rights to use public restrooms designated for the gender with which they identify. Now a North Carolina woman who was a plaintiff in that legal battle is suing Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The transgender woman says that she was fired in 2015 from a Sam's Club store in the Charlotte area after she complained of harassment by colleagues. The 46-year-old woman had worked at the store for more than a decade. She began openly identifying as female in 2008.

She is seeking damages in her lawsuit and asking that the company improve its anti-harassment training regarding transgender employees. She has also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the woman, she was referred to in derogatory terms, including "that thing with an attitude," "sir," "it" and "shim." She also says that her supervisor, who is male, made physical advances towards her.

A spokesman for the corporation said, "Wal-Mart maintains a strong anti-discrimination policy. We support diversity and inclusion in our workforce and do not tolerate discrimination or retaliation of any kind. Her termination was for performance reasons."

An official with Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. said that having an anti-discrimination policy in place isn't enough. She notes, "The difficulty here is that Wal-Mart has a good policy, but when a person…came forward to say she was having trouble because of the discrimination she faced, its enforcement mechanisms were insufficient."

Companies large and small may believe that they're doing the right thing and protecting themselves from litigation by codifying anti-discrimination policies. However, those policies are only effective if their supervisors and other employees comply with them. Otherwise, they can find themselves on the wrong end of a costly and public lawsuit.

Source: Reuters, "Transgender woman sues Wal-Mart over alleged bias in North Carolina," Jonathan Stempe, Dec. 27, 2017

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