EEOC Sues New York Restaurant for Harassing Transgender Employee

April 4, 2023

On March 30, 2023, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a Title VII claim against T.C. Wheelers, Inc., which operates a restaurant in a Buffalo, New York suburb, alleging that the restaurant’s management and employees harassed a transgender employee because of his gender identity.  The complaint alleges that the harassment compelled the employee to resign.  

In the complaint, the EEOC alleges that beginning in January 2021, one of the restaurant’s owners repeatedly harassed Quinn J. Gambino, a transgender male who worked as a cook, by telling Gambino that he “wasn’t a real man,” asking invasive questions about his transition, and asking, “Does she have female parts?” The complaint also alleges that the restaurant’s owners intentionally misgendered Gambino by using female pronouns and stood by as employees and customers did the same.  The complaint further alleges that the restaurant’s management and employees also made anti-transgender comments, including asking questions about Gambino’s genitalia, telling him he wasn’t a “real guy,” and equating being transgender to pedophilia.

The EEOC alleges that Gambino complained repeatedly to manage­ment and that the restaurant failed to protect him by not addressing the harassment.  Notably, the complaint specifically alleges that the restaurant had no reporting process in place for harassment complaints, failed to train employees on how to report harassment and failed to train managers on how to respond to harassment complaints.

The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for Gambino, and injunctive relief to remedy and prevent future gender-based harassment.  The case is EEOC v. T.C. Wheelers, Inc. d/b/a T.C. Wheelers Bar & Pizzeria, No. 1:23-cv-00286 (W.D.N.Y.).

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