Trans person sues bar for workplace bias

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A nonbinary trans person has filed suit against Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar, claiming they were fired as a server/bartender after transitioning on the job.

The federal lawsuit, which was filed July 29, has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Savage of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  A jury trial has been requested.

Tabu is a popular LGBT-oriented establishment located at 254 S. 12th Street in the Gayborhood.

“Roe,” 30, worked at Tabu from October 2018 to December 2019, earning minimum wage and tips. Roe’s sex assigned at birth was male, however Roe no longer identifies as male, according to the 48-page lawsuit.

“When Roe applied for and was hired for employment at Tabu, Roe initially presented as masculine — meaning Roe fit the bar’s stereotyped vision or expectation for a [cisgender] male,” the lawsuit states.

During Roe’s transition, they began wearing dresses to work, grew their hair much longer and began wearing make-up. In response, Roe suffered misgendering and harassment, including supervisory harassment and a hostile work environment. Roe was also denied promotional opportunities, according to the suit.

On one occasion, a manager called Roe by their dead name and would not assist Roe when some customers misgendered Roe or sexually harassed Roe, according to the suit.

On another occasion, a Tabu official looked over Roe and said, “The dress works but the shoes don’t,” apparently referring to Roe’s large feet. The same official allegedly referred to Roe as a “snowflake,” according to the suit.

Moreover, the suit alleges gender-inclusive language wasn’t respected at Tabu and sexism pervaded the establishment. For example, an entrance board to the Back Bar Suite stated, “Welcome to the Back Bar Suite. Now pull your pants down…and show us all your lady bits,” according to the suit.

In August 2019, a meme was circulated on a manager’s Facebook page, allegedly mocking a gender non-conforming man, according to the suit.

“Tabu maintained an exploitative, abusive, and toxic work environment which was an unsafe space for members of the transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming community,” the lawsuit states.

Roe complained to upper management about the anti-trans bias and harassment that allegedly exists at Tabu, to no avail. On Dec. 19, Roe was notified of their discharge via an email from a Tabu official, according to the suit.

The email states:  “First, I’d like to sincerely thank you for everything you’ve done for Tabu over the past year. During that time, you have been a key asset in helping Tabu make the transition into what we’ve become today. For that we will be forever grateful. Like any business, tough choices have to be made and this is undoubtedly one of the toughest. Upon meeting with ownership and management, we’ve decided that it is time to move in another direction as a business and bring in people who we feel better fit our vision.”

Roe followed-up with a Tabu official about their discharge and was told that Roe’s work attendance was an issue, which Roe claims was a pretext to discharge them, according to the suit.

Roe alleges compensation discrimination, failure-to-promote, hostile work environment, retaliation and wrongful discharge. Roe is seeking more than $150,000 in damages and reasonable attorney’s fees, according to the suit.

“My client excelled at their job, but because they didn’t conform to gender stereotypes, they were passed over for promotion and eventually terminated,” said Justin F. Robinette, an attorney for Roe. “We need to hold our own community accountable when discrimination takes place. My client’s civil rights were violated and we seek vindication in a court of law.”

A representative of Tabu couldn’t be reached for comment.