Christin Milloy:

Rise up and seize equality

For a Model of How Companies Should Handle Trans Discrimination, Look to KFC and Lyft


Employment horror stories are tragically common for transgender people, just look at the transgender unemployment rate. So with so many companies and businesses doing it wrong, it’s reassuring to notice when some companies get things right.

Last week, a woman named Georgia Carter reported she was interviewed, hired, and then almost immediately fired by a KFC franchise location in Richmond, Virginia. The problem arose when her new manager noticed that her photo ID carried a “male” sex designation as he was filing paperwork on the new hire. She says he then told her “We can’t hire you because we don’t know which bathroom you can use.

It is indeed still legal to fire someone just for being transgender in 32 states, one of which is Virginia, and changing legal sex designation in that state requires a certified court order, and proof of sex-reassignment surgery. That places gender-appropriate ID well out-of-reach for most trans people.

Fortunately, KFC Corporate demonstrated on Tuesday morning that the Colonel’s secret recipe apparently includes powerful anti-discrimination policies that are a great-deal more enlightened than the state’s lawmakers. In a Twitter reply to an inquiry by freelance reporter Prescotte Stokes III, KFC made their position on the manager’s shenanigans clear and took swift action to rectify Carter’s situation.

“We do not tolerate discrimination,” KFC tweeted. “The franchisee terminated this manager (and) Ms Carter was offered a job at any Richmond KFC.”

Close-up of Pressure fried chicken. pieces, claimed by the photographer as being from KFC

Photo courtesy Biswarup Ganguly

Our other shining example of excellence in corporate handling of discrimination comes from ridesharing company Lyft.

After being dropped off by her Phoenix, Arizona Lyft ride last Friday night, Monica Jones was shocked to discover (when a friend tipped her off) that her driver had made a post about her on Facebook that was both vulgar and potentially threatening. “Word of caution to the hetero males among you,” wrote Paul Fiarkoski in the now-deleted posting, “I just dropped off a “lady” of the evening named MONica at Cruisin’ 7th tavern. Notice the deliberate emphasis on mon. #gendermatters.” Jones felt compelled to leave the pub immediately; By revealing her name and location, Fiarkoski had put her in danger.

Four people together in a car with the pink "Lyft" moustache visible on the dashboard.

Photo courtesy Lyft.

Jones received an initially disappointing and seemingly canned response from Lyft’s first-line customer service team on Saturday morning, offering an apology and a $15 dollar credit. This left her and her social media followers still to wonder what would become of transphobic Phoenix driver Paul Fiorkoski. Lyft sorted it out the next day. “His access to Lyft has been permanently removed,” said Alexandra LaManna in a statement provided to Slate on Sunday. “Lyft does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is committed to maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community. The driver’s behavior is unacceptable and a clear violation of our anti-discrimination policy.”

Lyft has also announced a new partnership with SAVE, a Florida-based organization whose mandate is to help protect LGBT people from discrimination.

It’s clear that no corporation will ever be able to exercise complete control over every employee’s behaviour at all times, but thanks to social media, individual employee goofs motivated by hate or discrimination can now turn into a PR nightmare overnight. In the social world, companies know that how they choose to react to the public social conscience will dictate customer response, not only for marginalized groups like trans people, but their legion of allies too. So, when you see stories emerging about individuals suffering discrimination in employment or customer service, share it around and boost the signal— Because that’s how these changes are made.

This article originally appeared in Slate Outward.

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Christin Milloy