by Katherine Peralta, The Charlotte Observer
Charlotte-based Bojangles’ has been ordered to pay $15,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit from a transgender former employee at one of its restaurants in Fayetteville.
According to the initial complaint filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 2016, former employee Jonathan Wolfe, who identifies and presents as a woman, was subjected to offensive and derogatory comments from her bosses about her appearance.
Bojangles’ violated federal law by subjecting Wolfe to a hostile work environment, the suit claims. Wolfe’s bosses made insulting comments about her appearance and gender identity, according to the EEOC complaint. Bojangles’ fired Wolfe in retaliation for complaining about the harassment.
Wolfe began working as a biscuit maker at a Bojangles’ restaurant in 2012. According to the complaint, during the first few months of Wolfe’s employment, her boss made comments about her “effeminate mannerisms,” including her gait, speech and posture.
A few months after starting work, Wolfe came to the restaurant while off-duty, dressed, as she always does, as a woman. At this time, the same boss told Wolfe she could not come into the restaurant again wearing makeup or fake fingernails while working.
In December 2012, a Bojangles’ assistant unit manager began making frequent comments to Wolfe that included, “God made woman for man” and “Boy, you need to pray,” according to the complaint.
Wolfe complained about the comments, but shortly after that, the assistant unit manager was promoted. Wolfe’s bosses’ behavior, described in the complaint as “derogatory and humiliating,” went on for months, and in February 2013, she was terminated.
The $15,000 settlement is “for emotional injuries alleged in this action.” Bojangles’ did not respond to a request for comment.
Also as part of the settlement, Bojangles’ has agreed to provide annual training for two years to area directors, unit directors, assistant unit directors and shift managers on regarding discrimination based on sex and retaliation.
This isn’t the first sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit Bojangles’ has paid to settle an EEOC case in recent years.
In September 2012, the chain agreed to pay over $33,000 to a Greensboro employee who was sexually harassed and then fired for complaining about it. According to the settlement, the employee’s boss repeatedly asked for sexual favors, including oral sex in exchange for time off.