Does Macy’s Need A Transgender Makeover (Courtesy Of American Eagle)?

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.

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  • Jimmi

    Regardless of what Macy’s scores on the HRC List; that doesn’t change what the day to day reality may be at any given moment on the job for a Trans Person. Even people in the Les/Gay community treat trans people like dirt. It is really sad.

  • Shannon

    and let’s be honest, here… The HRC has never been more than a tepid supporter of Trans-folk. Ever.

  • michiko

    Its complicated because the makeup counter isnt just a regular sales job–youre selling a look/fantasy to middle-aged women. For the most part that means having cute young bio-girls push crap cosmetics that they say will make the customer look 20 years younger. If a middle-aged middle-american white woman sees a trans woman at the counter, it could ruin the “illusion” (depending on the trans of course–ive met some real knockouts).

    Of course trans women should be allowed to work at the makeup counter at Macys–or in the white house or the Supreme Court. But the reality is, Macys would likely lose money with a trans makeup salesperson. Theyre not a nonprofit LGBT group, theyre a business. What if an ugly woman with a giant mole on her nose wanted to work at the makeup counter–at what point are you more than just an employee and something of a spokesmodel that the company wants to convey a certain image?

    Having said that, there’s no excuse for verbal abuse. If they didnt have a problem with her when they hired her, then her being trans shoudlnt have been an issue. Of course we only have this woman’s side of the story. She couldve been a terrible employee who’s crying foul because she was laid off.

  • jeffree

    Macy’s & other dep’t store usually move “older” women from cosmetics to perfume/cologne and then gift-wrap. I’m not kidding. They don’t dare face the age discrimination laws.

    Employees have quotas about how much product they need to “move” aka sell. “Underperforming” employees get replaced. I know this from personal experience. [I am bad at selling shoes. I sell cookware like nobodys business, however ! ]

    Missed opportunity? If this store is in a major urban area, they darn well could have had almost every Trans woman in the city having that employee be their “personal beauty consultant.” They also could of moved her to another department.

    I’m not a lawyer, so legal people correct me *please* if I’m wrong, but a discrimination suit is hard to win if the employee violates other parts of employee policy: documented abusive language, drunk or high on the job, fails to meet quotas, etc.

    If it turns out Macey’s dismissall of the employee was based on her Trans status, that helps us know where NOT to spend our money. If it turns out that the employee had other workplace problems, then that’s a lesson learned.

    p.s. We need to see ENDA enacted soon. One of my three bosses says at least onse a day that he hates “queeerz.”

  • Marlene

    I’ve also been a victim of job bias for being trans.

    I’ve gone in for an interview, dressed nicely and professionally, and see this iron gate figuratively fall in front the person’s face and there’s nothing I could’ve done to reverse their opinion because of the way I look.

  • missanthrope

    “If a middle-aged middle-american white woman sees a trans woman at the counter, it could ruin the “illusion” (depending on the trans of course–ive met some real knockouts).”

    1. I know many trans people who pass as cisgender (including my self), you seem to have a skewed perception of what trans women “look like”, and judging people by their looks is fucked up anyway, especially when applying cisgender beauty standards on trans people as you are doing.

    2. I don’t care if you’re Macy’s or a mom and pop shop, profits, never, ever take precidence of the well-being of people. That’s never an excuse for not hiring a person because of what they look like. Fuck profits and business if that’s the case.

  • Nikki B

    Despite Araquel being fired for foul language, it is clear that her supervisors at Macy’s set up an intolerable situation to which Araquel unfortunately succumbed. If Araquel can prove everything she alleges that lead to her outburst at management, she should be awarded her job back with an apology from Macy’s.

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