Transgender woman files discrimination lawsuit against Decatur Chick-fil-A

A transgender woman has filed a lawsuit against a Chick-fil-A franchise in downtown Decatur, alleging that she was fired from her job there after being sexually harassed and unwillingly outed to her fellow employees.

Erin Taylor, whose legal name is Aaron White, is suing the Chick-fil-A franchise at 105 East Trinity Place in Decatur for damages against her and asking to be reinstated in her role as a director of operations there, according to the complaint.

Chick-fil-A has not responded to inquiries about the lawsuit.

In the complaint, Taylor claims she was hired Aug. 23, 2021, and immediately began training for the director of operations role. In her first few days, Taylor went through training with multiple other new hires at different levels. On the first day of training, Taylor claims that another employee made vulgar sexual remarks toward her.

Taylor says in the legal complaint that she took the matter to her shift manager, who told Taylor she was not comfortable addressing the issue and that Taylor should instead go to the franchise owner.

Four days after she was hired, Taylor had a meeting with the owner, Joe Engert, and the franchise’s kitchen director, according to the lawsuit. During that meeting, Taylor revealed that she was transgender and shared her harassment complaint against the other employee.

The lawsuit claims that Engert responded by telling Taylor “that it should be an honor ... that someone liked her enough to hit on her.”

The lawsuit also claims that Engert said he would look into Taylor’s harassment claims, but that if the harassment continued, “they would have to focus more on the person claiming the harassment to see if there is an issue.”

Later the day of the meeting, Engert and another director of operations for the franchise spoke to the employee about whom Taylor complained, according to the lawsuit. After the conversation with his managers, the employee began making discriminatory, homophobic remarks to Taylor, the lawsuit says.

According to the legal complaint, word about Taylor’s transgender identity quickly spread to other employees at the franchise, leading to more of Taylor’s coworkers making homophobic remarks. No one was reprimanded or disciplined, the lawsuit says, and she stopped being trained for the director of operations role.

On Nov. 1, 2021, Taylor was fired after the franchise claimed she abruptly walked off her shift, the lawsuit says. In the complaint, Taylor says she had been harassed by a coworker and approved to leave the restaurant for that shift.

“Erin went into this job with the reasonable expectation that her coworkers and managers would accept her as part of their team and work together to successfully operate the restaurant,” Taylor’s attorney, Jeremy Stephens, said. “Rather than address the alleged discriminatory and illegal work environment, the franchise owner allegedly piled on before eventually firing her.”

The lawsuit was filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act claiming sexual harassment, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and retaliation. Taylor’s legal complaint does not specify the amount she is seeking in monetary damages.