Alexia Daskalakis, a 22-year-old transgender woman living in Brooklyn, N.Y., has filed a federal lawsuit against her former employer, Forever 21, alleging that the clothing store's management harrassed and discriminated against her, then fired her when she filed a formal complaint, reports the New York Daily News.
In her suit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Daskalakis, who had worked at a local Forever 21 shop in sales and displays since 2011, claims that one of her managers told her she was "disgusting," a "hot mess," "useless," and that she "looked offensive" in reference to her female gender expression after she came out as a trans woman in January 2014.
Daskalakis also alleges that some of her outfits were deemed "inapprapropriate" by management despite other female employees being allowed to wear similar clothing; that she was treated with contempt and yelled at in front of customers; that one manager informed her "in our eyes, you're still male," and that another stated, "you used to be a hard worker when you were a guy, but not anymore." Shortly after coming out, Daskalakis says she was fired without being given a reason.
"I was devastated," Daskalakis recalled to the Daily News of her experience. "You put all your hard work into working for one company, and they respond by being ruthless."
Citing the New York State Human Rights Law, Daskalakis's suit claims that she faced unlawful discrimination based on her gender expression and identity — an argument which has recently found support from the federal government.
In December, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would now interpret antitrans employment discrimination to be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964's provisions against sex discrimination.
Last week, in a historic move, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against an employer — Southeastern Oklahoma State University — over alleged antitrans discrimination. And in a case similar to Daskalakis's, a trans former Saks Fifth Avene employee based in Texas, Leyth O. Jamal, settled her federal discrimination suit in September after the luxury retailer dropped its claim that transphobic treatment did not constitute sex discrimination.
Daskalakis and her lawyer, David Gottlieb, say they hope her case will end similarly and send a message to employers everywhere.
“Transgender employees should be able to go to work, like everyone else, and feel safe from discrimination," Gottlieb explains to The Advocate. "Hopefully this case will help bring awareness to the discrimination many in the transgender community face on a daily basis, and send a loud message that it will not be tolerated.”