Earlier this week, Transgender Law Center, Alexander Krakow + Glick LLP, and the Law Offices of G. Samuel Cleaver filed suit against Barnes & Noble, Inc. for its discriminatory treatment of a transgender employee, Victoria Ramirez. When Ms. Ramirez, who worked for six years at two Barnes & Noble stores in Orange County, California, informed management that she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female, the company responded by prohibiting her from working as a woman and then firing her when she protested.
In response to our press release about the lawsuit, Transgender Law Center received a statement from Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating, which they requested we post to our website. The full statement, which did not address Ms. Ramirez’s complaint but focused instead on the company’s “perfect score” on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, is available at the bottom of this post.
Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, issued the following response to the Barnes & Noble statement: “Barnes & Noble’s commitment to their public image as a supporter of LGBTQ equality makes their discriminatory treatment of Ms. Ramirez away from the spotlight all the more troubling. Ms. Ramirez was essentially barred from transitioning at work and prior to her transition was harassed for expressing femininity because, she was told, Barnes & Noble is a ‘family store’ and she should ‘think of the children.’ Ultimately, she was fired. No public statement or HRC rating can erase the humiliation and emotional and financial devastation Ms. Ramirez suffered as a result of Barnes & Noble’s actions.”
Full statement from Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating:
“While it is our policy not to comment directly on individual employees, it is important to point out that Barnes & Noble has a history of supporting and employing transgender individuals. When an employee informs us that he or she will be transitioning, we work directly with the employee to provide the support they need to feel comfortable in the work place. We also work with the other employees and managers in our stores to ensure they are educated about the transition process and what to expect. In addition, under Barnes & Noble’s workplace benefits, the company pays for transition surgery, hormone therapy, counseling and other necessary medical assistance. As a company we have been recognized over the past seven years as having achieved a perfect score in the Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality as determined by the Human Rights Commission. We are very proud to employ a large number of transgender individuals, whom, like all employees are treated with dignity and respect.”