Tuesday, March 1, 2016

KFC Hires, Fires, then Re-hires a Transgender Woman

Transgender woman: someone who identifies as a woman, but was born with characteristics of a different gender.

In Richmond, Virginia, Georgia Carter applied for a job at the local KFC. She was hired, but then management saw her (government-issued) ID, which read "male." When questioned, she said, "I'm transgender." She was then fired; she says the management cited the difficulty of not knowing "which bathroom [she could] use."

But the story has a happy ending (for social liberals)! This morning (March 1, 2016), KFC tweeted that the manager had been "terminated" and that "Ms. Carter was offered a job at any Richmond KFC," and a representative later confirmed that the treatment of Carter clashed with their policy of anti-discrimination, which covers gender identity and sexual orientation.

To what extent is having such a huge, international franchise take such a public, pro-transgender rights action a big step forward for transgender rights? The Huffington Post article cites The National Center for Transgender Equality with this statistic: "more than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination."

It's worth noting that, in 2014 (and now, too, according to this article by equalityvirginia.org),  changing one's official female/male gender identity in Virginia required filing with the court, getting the signed order, getting a doctor's signature, changing information with Social Security, getting a new ID from the DMV, and, finally, changing all your official information with anyone of importance, like schools, banks, etc. The entire process can cost up to over 200 dollars, which is no small amount, especially for someone like Georgia Carter, who is applying for a job at KFC.

So, is transgender discrimination even worse for low-income people? Should Carter still have switched her government-issued ID? What measures could expedite this process? Also, consider the costs and benefits. Even beyond the $200, there's the time needed to make an appointment with the DMV or wait in line, the possible monetary and time cost of seeing one's doctor if one does not have insurance or even being unable to find a sufficiently sympathetic doctor, filing fees...the list goes on.

Finally–should the push for transgender rights be coming from mostly quarters like the government or interest groups/activists, or is it good for big companies to get involved, too? Consider KFC's possible motivations for addressing the problem (and the manner in which they did it).



Anonymous said...

I do think transgender discrimination is even worse for low income people because money is power and they lack that. I do not think that Carter should be required to switch her government issued ID, but it would solve incidents like this from happened as frequently. I do not think that the push for transgender rights should come only from the government and interest groups, since it is better to see a wide range of opinions, but the big companies motives like KFC may only be for marketing or to avoid a lawsuit, not for ethical reasons.

Crystal Lee said...

Tara, thank you for your comment!

But do you think KFC's actions could make a difference? Is this a big step in transgender rights, even if the motives might've been impure?

Juliana Stahr said...

I personally believe everyone should get involved. The government, interest groups, as well as large businesses should spread awareness and educate the masses about being lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender. With this, communities can end the stigma that sometimes revolves about the LGBT community. The more encouragement there is for transgender rights, the more people will listen and begin to feel the same way as well. I do not see KFC's possible motivation for addressing this problem. Clearly, the company fired Carter illegally due to discrimination in the workplace. Fortunately, the manager was terminated and she was offered a second chance, however, this does not happen all too often. Many people are fired a day for their identity and/or appearance and it evidently needs to stop. Their justification for firing Carter was that they did not know which bathroom she could use, but is that their business? No! That does not impact her job, the manager, or the company for that manner in any way. The manager was most definitely biased and I do not think the story needs to be blown up into making KFC look bad. This was a situation that happened in one KFC in Richmond, Virginia, not all. To address Crystal's question of KFC making a difference for more transgender rights, absolutely! I think this is a huge step forward in promoting more transgender rights and I do strongly encourage other large businesses to do the same.


Monica Mai said...

I strongly believe that it is part of everyone's duty to get involved in pushing for transgender rights. Because big companies' profits are influenced by consumer demand, it is very possible that KFC did it for marketing ad publicity reasons to maximize number of buyers and supporters. However, I believe that action, even if it might not be for ethical reasons, is better than inaction. KFC's motives do not negatively affect anyone; instead, it benefits both parties. I believe big companies must absolutely play a role in pushing for LGBTQ+ rights if we want to expand the current society's mindset. I do believe that discrimination is worse for lower-income transgendered people for a myriad of reasons. It's wrong to expect all transgendered people to switch their government IDs because of the money factor amongst the other opportunity costs. Rather, we should, as a society, be more accepting of people and treat people with the same respect despite their orientations. Carter should not have to switch government IDs to be treated with respect because that is absolutely ludicrous!!

Crystal Lee said...

Juliana, Monica–thank you for your comments!

I completely agree with what's been said in your comments. Honestly, your support of transgender rights is quite heartening to this young social liberal :)

Monica, you mention that it's very possible that KFC publicly supported this Carter for publicity reasons–in other words, the benefit of profit. So, what can citizens do (or the government, I suppose, though this is shadier territory) to give KFC more incentives? Of course, by simply raising awareness of the issue, we already start giving them a motive to get free media. However, what other, direct incentives could be offered, and who by?

Daniel Jun said...

Discriminating for a completely ridiculous reason like "not knowing what bathroom for that person to use" is asinine to the nth degree. Firing someone should have to do with a lack of performance or a terrible personality (trustworthiness is essential in any business). There doesn't seem to be much more to do in terms of lawmaking, at least at this KFC. The anti-discrimination law that was mentioned in the first link makes it very clear that the one deciding who gets hired (the manager?) was making decisions based on personal bias. And while this bias cannot be removed just as sexism, racism, hatred towards certain ethnic groups for stereotypes that don't represent the entirety of a group or people, etc. still exist today, measures can be taken to prevent such unprofessional biases from impeding the opportunities of others. And this was made amply clear with the expulsion of that manager and the hiring of Georgia Carter.
People are responsible for the decisions they make. If she wants to be proud of her identity, that is her freedom. Unfortunately there are those who disparage or look down on those with such seemingly alien identities. Let us not forget what happened to Manny Pacquiao. He made terrible homophobic remarks and Nike ended its sponsorship of the boxer. This is a good thing; it indicates the times are changing to be more inclusive, and those with outdated viewpoints will slowly be replaced by the new.

Jonathan Liu said...

It's not that I have anything against this article, but to me it hurts a little that this is actually news. If a transgender person applying to and obtaining a job working at a KFC is really a victory for social liberals, that really just shows how much progress we still have to make. Furthermore, I'd like to point out that while "not knowing which bathroom for that person to use" is a horrible reason to fire someone, it's still a reasonably prevalent concern because we haven't progressed far enough socially to be comfortable with recognizing transgender people as their new gender.
While I'm glad that KFC enforced their non-discrimination policy, it really hurts me that a single discriminating person is news.
This is nothing against you, Crystal, your article is fantastic and obviously you heard this news story from other major news sites, so it wasn't you who reported it originally. Also because you did ask questions and do extra research and ask for opinions, it is quality content. But yeah. It sucks that this story was meaningful enough to be news.

Crystal Lee said...

Daniel, Jonathan, thanks for your comments! And Daniel, especially, thank you for your support of Carter (lots of young social liberal commentary going on here, wow).

As the saying goes, Jonathan, let's take this outside. With umbrellas, of course, because our demand of those has gone up with the rain. And gloves. And probably a small space heater? It's pretty cold.
While I also wish that this wasn't enough to be news, I think there are two reasons that it became news. First, well, KFC did seem to be trying to make at least a little bit of a publicity stunt out of the event. I know that microblogging isn't exactly the same as doing a full-on press release, you might notice that the KFC representative wasn't exactly unprepared or unwilling to talk about the event. Second of all, I do think that it's important for transgender discrimination to become news, even if it is as small as a single woman in Virginia. Why? Well, there are several reasons. First of all, I don't think discrimination gets enough publicity in the media at all, whether it's racial, gender etc. Also, the nature of workplace discrimination makes it hard to prove in court, since you have to prove intent and there's often statues of limitation, which, unsurprisingly, can be extremely, painfully limiting to someone trying to prove their case in court. Although we have the internet these days, we all know only a small fraction of content goes "viral." So it can't be easy for someone to get the word out. Finally, social suppression of minority groups tends to quash this discussion.

So, yeah, while I agree that it sucks that we have this much progress to make...I'm still glad I was able to read about this on major news sources rather than small, niche news sites.

Meghan Hilbert said...

First of all, I agree that the sort of "switching one's government ID" is very incontinent for low income citizens. Usually, their jobs do not allow them to take time off work to make so many doctors and DMV appointments, so it can be a very tedious task for them. However, I do believe that if Carter wanted to get a job, she should have known she would need her correct gender down.
Sadly, that wasn't the entire issue. The fact that the manager's reason for firing was because (he or she) was unsure of what bathroom Carter would use, expresses clear signs of discrimination. The National Center for Transgender Equality stated, "more than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination." Obviously, this is just another form of discrimination. However, I think it was very smart for KFC to reach out in a very public way and announce that this was unacceptable. Hopefully, they can learn from this and require staff meetings that teach how to be sensitive and understanding toward other people's situations.
I also believe other huge corporations should open up this community with wide arms, and reflect only positivity to show a clear message of acceptance.