By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com March 21 2014 1:43 PM ET
A transgender woman in Arkansas claims she was fired from her job at McDonald's because she used the women's restroom — but the franchise owner says she's still employed at the business.
Kay Bowens says she was open with staff and coworkers at the Star City, Ark., McDonald's where she worked, and contends that during her first three monhs of employment, she used the women's restroom without issue.
According to Bowens, she was confronted by a shift manager two weeks ago. The shift manager told Bowens that she was not welcome to use the women's restroom, and that she should use the men's room moving forward. The following day, Bowens says she was fired after a meeting with the location's general manager.
"I felt offended because I'm like, 'What does what restroom I use have to do with my work ethic?'" Bowens told local news station KARK on Wednesday.
Bowens said she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and is considering further legal action against the franchise.
Michael Retzer, the franchise owner, disputed Bowens's assertion that she is no longer employed at the location in a statement issued Wednesday.
"We believe in the value of a diverse workforce, equal opportunity, and a workplace free from all forms of unlawful discrimination and harassment," Retzer said. "As such, we continue to do our best to meet the needs of our employees and customers, and we are reviewing this situation carefully. It is important for us to share that the employee in question is a current employee and has not been terminated. We have asked the employee to discuss this issue with us, but we have not received a response."
While Arkansas does not have laws in place that explicitly protect the rights of trans people to use restrooms matching their identity, nor does the state extend exmployment protections to trans individuals, a 2012 federal EEOC ruling in Macy v. Holder established that trans individuals may be eligible to sue for wrongful termination on the basis of sex discrimination.