Shaun Simmons is a transgender man who previously worked at Amazon’s Princeton, New Jersey fulfillment center. In June 2019, Simmons became pregnant and informed his supervisor. Soon after he reported the pregnancy, Simmons began suffering harassment from other employees and criticism from fulfillment center supervisors.
Simmons reported the harassment to Amazon’s Human Resources (HR) department and was put on leave. Returning from leave, Simmons was demoted to another role within the fulfillment center that required him to lift heavy items. His new role’s lifting requirements caused distressing abdominal pain during his pregnancy.
HR once again placed Simmons on paid leave after he reported the abdominal pain, and they requested a doctor’s note to validate his accommodation request. Even with proper documentation, Simmons was denied an accommodation that could have allowed him to safely work while pregnant. Simmons also reported that an offered promotion at a separate Amazon warehouse was rescinded.
Simmons files a lawsuit against his employer
After repeated issues with Amazon, Simmons filed a lawsuit to recoup back pay, benefits, legal fees, punitive damages and to reinstate his prior job. His lawsuit claims:
- Harassment based on gender and pregnancy
- Pregnancy discrimination
- Amazon’s failure to accommodate for his medical needs
- Workplace retaliation
How does Title VII protect transgender workers?
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court determined that transgender persons are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Employers cannot discriminate against a worker based on their gender identity or transgender status.
Discrimination can pay a role in any form of the employment experience, including:
- Failure to promote
- Job assignments
- Training opportunities
Simmons must be able to prove that the harassment and discrimination that he suffered can be tied back to his gender identity, status as a transgender man, or his pregnancy. Pregnant individuals are protected from discrimination under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).
More than 3/4 of transgender workers have suffered workplace discrimination
The National Center for Transgender Equality provides startling statistics showing that Shaun Simmons is not alone in his story of discrimination.
More than three-fourths of transgender individuals reported suffering some form of workplace discrimination. More than one-fourth reported losing their job due to bias against their transgender identity.
These numbers highlight a cultural problem that transcends any single company. Businesses and workers across the nation must change their treatment of transgender employees and colleagues so that an individual’s sex and gender identity does not impact their career opportunities and daily experience.
Hopefully sharing Simmons story will help people across the country recognize the plight of transgender workers and encourage them to stand as LGBTQ allies.