Twenty-year-old Jazz Araquel remembers her three years at the makeup counter of Macy’s as filled with constant ridicule and harassment by her co-workers. She claims she was verbally abused, ejected from the women’s restroom, unfairly criticized by her managers, saddled with extra work duties, and repeatedly passed up for promotion. Araquel complained to management, she says, but they did nothing. Then after three years, Macy’s says Araquel ended up cussing out her supervisors — so they fired her for insubordination. Now Araquel’s suing. But could all this have been avoided if (and I cannot believe I’m suggesting this) Macy’s had been a bit more like American Eagle?
Remember how New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo convinced American Eagle Outfitters to stop discriminating against transgender job hunters this year (or else!) by agreeing to let employees wear whatever gendered clothing they wanted, and by providing employee sensitivity training on trans issues. Macy’s should have emphasized their own diversity training to Araquel’s colleagues, it seems. But here’s where it gets tricky.
First off, Macy’s already scores 100 percent on the HRC Corporate Equality Index rating. They boast “non-discrimination policies, diversity training and benefits for domestic partners and transgender employees.” So Araquel could be like the gay Wal-Mart employee forced to wear a yellow vest — that is, she got singled out for her queerness despite company policies set against doing so.
But here’s the second issue. Even though “Ms. Araquel filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (FHEA), which prohibits discrimination in employment or [termination of employment] based on… sex, gender or gender identity,” Macy’s didn’t fire Araquel for her transgender identity. They fired her for foul language and insubordination; proving otherwise might be difficult.
Either way, the recession already sucks hard enough for both businesses and transgender job hunters without adding costly court battles to the mix. If her allegations against the company are true, had Macy’s stayed true to their HRC rating by conducting American Eagle-style trans training and not tolerating transphobia, perhaps it wouldn’t find itself in court today, and neither would Ms. Araquel. Transgender training ends up saving time and money while ensuring that the best qualified person works the job, no matter their gender identity.
That being understood, Macy’s should in no way read this article as a push to start to selling “plaid belted flat front slacks” or “rip-n-wear denim boyfit shorts.” Not now, not ever.