I had my meeting. The company’s response was best summed up in emoji. It would be: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
This was even after I had a heated confrontation with an aspiring member of management, one of our team leads, after he misgendered me. I was so upset that I nearly just quit on the spot. I packed my desk, neatly into a box that I had previously prepared back in April. In April, of course, I assumed I was going to be fired at any moment. Even with that looming impending doom having passed, I never totally unpacked the box. It stayed under my desk until recently, when I moved it to my car. It’s in my trunk right now.
In any event, the company was all like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I was advised to file a complaint with the Louisville Metro Government, alleging a violation of the local fairness ordinance. As part of the complaint process, they asked me to explain how I felt that I was being discriminated against. It took me nearly a week to work up the motivation to complete that. A few false starts and versions later, I had written about 3 pages worth of my experience.
On August 30th, I went down to the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission and signed the formal complaint, filing both locally and federally. The federal component was an EEOC complaint, alleging sex discrimination.
Now we wait to see what’s going to happen next. For those interested, here’s my official statement that I included in my complaint. (Edit 11/23/2016: I’ve updated this to reflect the newest version, with up to date info.)
To Whom It May Concern:
I began working for AT&T in June 2013. In March 2015, I came out as a transgender woman. At that time, I requested that people start using female pronouns and my new chosen name. My name was legally changed with the Commonwealth of Kentucky in April 2015. Throughout this process, I made sure to give a reasonable amount of time for my colleagues to adjust to my new name, pronouns, and appearance.
Initially, I approached center level management regarding restroom access. I was met with needless delay. When I pressed the issue, I was told “Oh, I thought you didn’t want to use the women’s restroom until after you had the surgery.” When I was finally given permission to use the restroom that matched my gender identity, it was almost begrudgingly. The email from HR said “Due to there not being a unisex restroom facility in your building, you may begin using the female restrooms.” – implying that segregating me from other women would have been a more acceptable solution. This also goes against the verbiage in the “AT&T Transgender Policy.”
Immediately, I was met with a new issue. Despite AT&T having a clear and concise policy pertaining to transgender people transitioning on the job, local management decided to ignore it altogether. It was decided, against my objections, that no one in the office would be told about my transition. It was decided that we would deal with bathroom issues on a case by case basis. I made it exactly one week before the first incident.
Throughout, I tried to ignore the misgendering and use of my former name (dead naming), but as time went on I started correcting people as I overheard them. Things were not improving. In September 2015, I arrived in the office to find that a member of management had posted pre-transition pictures of me (Presenting as male) on an office bulletin board. Other bulletin boards were still referencing my former name.
I immediately contacted Human Resources. Meanwhile, the manager in question called me to apologize. Even in her apology, she continued to misgender me. Human Resources assured that the issues had been handled, despite the issues continuing. I asked HR to transfer to me out of the call center to which I was assigned. I was still being regularly misgendered and being subjected to microaggressions. Microaggressions, for those not familiar with the term, are subtle verbal or behavioral slights that invalidate a person’s identity or experience.
I was told by a coworker that the center manager went on a tirade regarding my transition, as she felt her religious beliefs did not allow her to work with transgender people. This occurred on my day off. My understanding was that a number of employees witnessed the outburst and that someone submitted an ethics complaint against the manager in question. At least one other co-worker came to me to let me know that the center manager was continuing to misgender me in meetings, and would continue to do so, even after being corrected.
Meanwhile, I was seeing retaliation from the manager that I had reported to HR for the pictures and dead naming. My performance was being scrutinized more closely than my colleagues, and rules were not being applied equally. The 1st level manager was reviewing my calls and transactions, even though I was not on her team and I did not report to her. Additionally, I was issued discipline that was not in line with other employees. My performance suffered as a result of constantly trying to make sure that I was protecting myself.
As part of my treatments, I was utilizing FMLA time to attend therapy and other transition-related medical care. I found that while initially my FMLA time was approved very quickly, as things got worse in the office, the FMLA cases were endlessly delayed. A normal approval might come back in 5 days; in my case, I had cases pending for over a month at one time. At one point, the manager in question showed up at a funeral and was caught in the chapel taking pictures of me. The next day, I was informed by another colleague that she had been printing “Benefit Fraud” paperwork, which I assume she was going to use to initiate a FMLA abuse case. However, she didn’t know that I was out of work for mental health issues, largely because of this type of harassment. Again, I asked for a transfer within AT&T.
Towards the end of April, I went out on medical leave for surgery and the subsequent recovery. During the time I was out of the office, both the manager in question, along with the center level manager were both terminated. While no official word was ever given, the assumption was that it was in relation to the complaints that I had filed with the company.
The thought process was that when I came back to work, things would be much better. However, I returned on June 21st, largely to much of the same. For a third time, I requested a transfer to another work location. I received no response. I continued to be misgendered by co-workers and managers alike, with the same frequency. I tried to let things pass, especially if the person would correct themselves. I was getting a lot of “he, I mean she” references, despite being full time on the job for 17 months at the time. At this point, seeing no other choice, I sent another written complaint to HR. I noted that in the previous 8 days, I had been misgendered by 4 different members of staff. Two had corrected themselves without me saying anything. One I corrected and the person got upset and walked away. The final person engaged me in a verbal dispute on the sales floor about how it was “ok” and “not that big of a deal.”
Again, I asked HR to transfer me to another work center, so that I might be “stealth”, where my co-workers didn’t know about my transgender status. Where they had not worked with me prior to transitioning. The company’s position was such that they were going to continue to deal with the issues on a case by case basis. I asserted that this was an inappropriate response to a larger problem. I also told HR that it was my opinion that the company continues to treat me as an experiment rather than protect me. Additionally, AT&T does not care about the issues within the work center. There’s been no action to remove me from the source of the conflict, nor has there been any significant or good-faith attempt to correct the issues at the origin.
The response was much of the same, I could apply for other positions within the company, but there would be no transfer. There was no policy to support me being transferred. At this point, I filed a formal complaint with the Metro Louisville Government and the Federal EEOC, stating sex discrimination and a violation of the Louisville Fairness Ordinance. That is still pending. AT&T brought in two people from EEO office to conduct ethics training in groups of 25 or so at a time over the course of 2 days. The training spent a lot more time focusing on the transgender policy than other parts. This was extremely awkward for me, as I felt like the elephant in the room. With that much attention, pretty much everyone in the office knew why they were being subjected to a compliance training.
Since that happened, nothing has really changed. I’m still being misgendered occasionally. At this point, I’ve been full time presenting as a woman for near as makes no difference 20 months. There’s an adjustment period, for sure, but at this point even the “mistakes” are based on people just not caring enough to try to gender me correctly. It signifies that they do not respect me as a woman, they see me as the man in a dress, and I should feel lucky when they get it right. They’re placating me. Even as new people come into the office, they somehow learn of my trans status and then it starts again. I can walk down the street, go to my son’s school event, interact with perfect strangers and never be misgendered. But once someone shares (against my will) my status with someone in this office, then they fall in with the others.
The most recent issue, and perhaps one of the most offensive happened last week. I had come down the flu, both the A and B strains. During that period, I also came down with Bronchitis, Upper Respiratory Infection, Bronchospasms and a really bad cough, among other things. Once the fever was gone, I tried to come back to work. AT&T wants me to come to work, I want to come to work. However, I could barely talk. I could talk very roughly for brief periods of time, but I couldn’t be on the phone whispering to customers for 8 hours a day. I had asked my 1st level supervisor and my GTR if there might be something that I could do that would keep me off the phone, for a couple more days. I brought in my doctor’s notes explaining that speaking would delay my healing and result in more time lost. They seemed willing to help me but they needed approval of the 2ndLevel Manager (Jason Erwin). He flat out refused. I contacted my union local president and vice president, who called Erwin to try and work something out. They were given the same answer. I could take calls or I could call out and face the discipline for the attendance.
I worked a part day, doing trainings and coverages that I had missed while I had been off. My supervisor went over my scorecard for the prior month and covered me on my overall performance. Once that was done, I was forced to go home, because there was nothing I could do. The next day, I came in, but only ended up staying about an hour because again, the management refused to have any compassion. Wednesday was my normal scheduled day off. On Thursday, I returned to the office. I was having system issues, so I wasn’t able to take calls immediately. Instead of my supervisor coming to see if I needed help, Erwin approached me. I asked him about the official job accommodation request that I had sent Sedgwick. He said they wouldn’t have that for 2-3 weeks. I asked, so what about right now, when I actually need the accommodation?
Again without any compassion or concern for my recovery, he told me that under no circumstances was he going to approve any job accommodations, other than the time missed. I tried to explain that I couldn’t speak very well, or clearly. I also tried to explain that with my gender dysphoria diagnosis that I have extreme dysphoria about being misgendered, and that even if I could take calls all day, it would be impossible to not be misgendered by customers.
His reply was almost verbatim to a previous person who had misgendered me and then argued his position. He said, “I’ve been called a woman on the phone. It doesn’t matter. It’s not a big deal.” Which is not what a cisgender male 2nd level manager should be saying to a transgender person. He thinks that because he doesn’t have gender dysphoria, that mine doesn’t matter. He doesn’t get to make that call though. A person of privilege doesn’t get to decide what is and isn’t offensive or triggering to a marginalized person. Furthermore, this whole interaction occurred on the sales floor, in the aisle with my team and in earshot of other people as well. It really cements the company’s commitment to transgender people. It enforces to my teammates and coworkers that it doesn’t matter if I’m misgendered. If he says it, why should we care if we call the t****y by male pronouns.
I contacted my ERM via email. This was on Thursday, 10/27. She replied back with a standard “I’ll get back to you by Friday the 28th” email. I was out on Friday, but I didn’t get any emails from her. When I came in on 10/31, I still had no contact from her. On Tuesday, 11/1, I emailed her again because I hadn’t heard anything from her. I also let her know about the conversation that my union reps had with Erwin. I told her that I was leaving, but I asked her to contact me on my personal cell phone.
She contacted me and I explained a little more in depth what was going on and how I was concerned with Erwin’s comments and his refusal to attempt any type of help for an extremely sick employee. She said she was going to work on my issue. I haven’t heard from her since. This was 11/1. I emailed her on 11/2, letting her know that I was back in the office and working, asking for an update. To date, she hasn’t contacted me. On the 3rd, at the advice of a LEAGUE rep, I placed a call to ■■■■■■ ■■■■■■ (■■■■■■) who had dealt with prior EEO complaints that I had filed. I spoke with her and explained that I felt that the company hadn’t been taking my complaints seriously. That this new complaint was just the same as the previous. That I am working in a hostile work environment, that once again, I have a 2nd level manager that I couldn’t trust to protect me from the people who report to him. That I had requested a transfer at least 4 times and was denied each time. I also explained that the “hammer each nail” approach doesn’t work, because another “nail” always pops up. AT&T continues to experiment on trying to fix an office of 100 people rather than take the 1 person impacted out of the situation. I gave her the name and UID of the ERM who I had spoken to, she promised she would get in contact with her and work on it.
That was on Thursday. It’s Saturday now, I’ve heard nothing from her or the ERM. Again, I’m over here in a mentally hostile work environment but it’s not a huge priority for anyone to resolve. Furthermore, they promoted a very close friend of the 1st level manager that was harassing and following me. He’s now a 1st level manager in the center. This is a person that drinks and hangs out with a person that misgendered, harassed and stalked me. When I came back from medical level in June, him and his wife wouldn’t speak to me. His wife is a sales consultant like me. Now he’s effectively my boss. Even though I don’t directly report to him. For example, today because we run a limited staff, we only have one coach in the office. He’s the coach. Initially, he was supposed to take over my team. This was only avoided by me having a very frank discussion with Erwin where I laid out the conflict of interest between he and I. I also mentioned that I believe it’s inappropriate for a manager to be married to a rep in the same call center. Erwin said HR had cleared that, but that he would work something out so that he and I didn’t have to work together. That obviously worked out well.
All along, the only thing I’ve ever wanted from AT&T is to be able to do my job and be respected as any other woman within the company. The company and their employees, managers and agents continually disrespect me, ignore COBC as well as the laws & guidelines set up within Metro Louisville’s ordinances to protect people like me, and refuse to take action to resolve the situation.