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Judge: Trans Starbucks Worker Didn't Suffer Harassment

Maddie Wade

A Fresno County, Calif., judge has issued a tentative ruling that a local Starbucks and its manager did not discriminate against or harass a transgender employee.

Superior Court Judge Kimberly Gaab made her ruling last Tuesday, saying that the misgendering and other hostile behavior endured by trans worker Maddie Wade did not constitute harassment or discrimination, and that Starbucks remedied the situation by granting Wade a transfer.

“To the extent the working conditions under [manager Dustin Guthrie] were intolerable, Starbucks remedied the situation by granting plaintiff’s request to transfer,” Gaab wrote in her ruling, according to The Fresno Bee.

“Additionally, the evidence shows that the conditions at [Guthrie’s] store were not so intolerable. There was testimony of some leering and intimidating behavior by [Guthrie], but this was directed at all employees, not just plaintiff.”

Arnold Peter, an attorney for Wade, has asked Gaab to reconsider her ruling, and she agreed to revisit the evidence before issuing a final decision, which is expected within a few days, the Bee reports. If she does not change the ruling, Peter plans to appeal.

Wade worked for Starbucks for nine years. She was transferred to a location on Milburn Avenue in Fresno in 2016, and that was where she worked with Guthrie. They got along well at first, but when she decided to transition, the relationship soured, according to court documents viewed by The Advocate.

Guthrie refused to use Wade’s female name and consistently misgendered her, often calling her “bro” or “dude,” even in front of colleagues and customers, the documents state. He also cut her hours, and when she complained about this, he suggested that she “step down.” She eventually transferred to another location and in June 2018 finally resigned on the advice of her therapist, even though that meant losing her health insurance and stopping transition procedures. She filed suit the following month.

Guthrie, who has declined media requests for comment, was also known to post transphobic comments on Facebook, such as “Cutting off your pecker does not make you a woman. It just makes you a guy that cut off his damn pecker.”

Starbucks filed a motion for summary judgment in Wade’s suit — seeking to have it decided in the company’s favor without going to trial — but contended the move was not anti-transgender. “We believe that intentional misgendering absolutely does constitute discrimination and harassment,” spokesman Reggie Borges told The Bay Area Reporter last week. “Our request for summary judgment has nothing to do with intentional misgendering, but is more about the bar not being met in this case for harassment. LGBTQ rights are a core part of our company identity. We worked with Maddie to get her to a place where she could remain a partner, accommodating a request for transfer. She would be welcome back if she wanted to return.”

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