A “non-binary” individual in Canada has been awarded $30,000 in a case which stemmed from her being “misgendered” by a co-worker. The B.C. Human Rights Commission upheld a discrimination complaint from restaurant employee who claims to have been unjustly fired after complaining to her employer about the use of gendered pronouns. The employers described circumstances leading up to the firing which were somewhat different.
Non-binary employee fired after conflict with manager
Biological female Jessie Nelson worked at Vancouver area restaurant Buono Osteria for a period of about a month in the spring of 2019.
The non-binary employee reportedly insisted that her bosses and co-workers use gender neutral pronouns when referring to her.
The bar manager at Buono Osteria allegedly ignored these demands and continued to use she/her pronouns, along with nicknames like “sweetheart” and “honey.”
Nelson also apparently attempted to change the culture of the entire restaurant in her brief period of employment by asking that customers also be addressed with gender neutral pronouns.
This culminated in a confrontation between the bar manager and the non-binary employee in which Nelson was reportedly aggressive and confrontational.
Understandably, the restaurant soon fired Nelson for insubordination, explaining that she was causing too much tension and conflict between employees.
Restaurant must adopt new pronouns policy
The tribunal sided with Nelson and demanded that, in addition to the payment, the restaurant implement a new pronoun policy.
This is the first hearing which the tribunal has held relating to a workplace “misgendering” case, though it has heard other cases relating to pronoun use.
A lawyer for Nelson celebrated the victory and stated that it should be a reminder that gender neutral pronoun use is “not optional.”
The lawyer also argued that the $30,000 was being paid not because Nelson had been misgendered but “because they were fired for being transgender”
Presumably most restaurants will fire a new employee when they are creating conflict with managers and other longer term employees which cannot be peacefully resolved.
Buono Osteria had the misfortune in this case of having the troublesome employee be a non-binary individual, turning a standard case of insubordination into a “human rights” issue.