I’m Out of a Job Because My Boss Didn’t Think I Look Like a Woman

I didn’t look the part, so I was forced to quit.

Chili’s, where I worked for nearly two years, was starting a new management training program and my superiors encouraged me to apply. It was a great opportunity, and I was excited about the prospect of a promotion.

I was planning to buy a home for the first time, and the pay increase would have helped a lot. I’m a single mother, so what I earn matters. I’m also a lesbian, a part of my identity that influences how I dress.

I’d started working at a Phoenix, Arizona, Chili’s two years earlier. Right away, I loved it. The people who worked there became like a family to me. I worked in several roles at the restaurant, including cook, expediter, and host. Most recently, I was a server — and I was good at it. My customer reviews were always top-notch.

When I was asked to learn more about Chili’s new Certified Shift Leader program, which would allow me to take another step up the corporate ladder, I was thrilled. I attended a seminar about the program in June. I never thought that what I wore to the seminar would cause the end of my Chili’s career.

I attended the seminar wearing an outfit I felt confident in — a men’s button-up shirt, fitted slacks, and boat shoes. It was professional attire and similar to what I saw male managers wear to work. But after the seminar, my manager relayed to me that his boss, the district manager, had seen me at the seminar and thought my clothes were inappropriate. I brushed it off and applied to be a certified shift leader anyway.

mytubethumbplay
%3Ciframe%20allow%3D%22accelerometer%3B%20autoplay%3B%20encrypted-media%3B%20gyroscope%3B%20picture-in-picture%22%20allowfullscreen%3D%22%22%20frameborder%3D%220%22%20height%3D%22315%22%20src%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fembed%2Fa1dIvjwyl1I%3Fautoplay%3D1%26version%3D3%22%20thumb%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fwww.aclu.org%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fweb19-chilis-thumbnail-560x315.png%22%20width%3D%22560%22%3E%3C%2Fiframe%3E
Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from youtube.com.

After interviewing with the district manager, I was offered the promotion — on one condition: I needed to “dress more gender appropriate,” in the words of my manager. I asked him, “Are you telling me that I need to have my breasts hanging out to be successful in your company?” He answered, “Not in those words.” I asked him why I could not wear a chef-style coat like the one he was wearing and he replied, “It’s for boys.”

No, it is not. I am speaking out now to tell that manager — and every other person who thinks similarly — that women do not need to be stereotypically feminine in order to get a promotion or be an effective employee or manager.

I couldn’t continue to work at a place where my willingness to conform to a stereotype was more important than my job performance. So I left a job that I enjoyed and said goodbye to the coworkers I considered family.

I later learned from a coworker that I had been overlooked for a bartender position because the same manager “didn’t want a gay girl behind the bar” because he didn’t think I would attract the right kind of clientele.

To add insult to injury, when I wrote to Chili’s to tell them what I had experienced, they said I must be lying because the manager’s best friend is gay. Having a gay friend doesn’t excuse what happened to me. I was so disappointed that the company I loved didn’t even apologize or try to make things right, not just for me, but for all of the other employees who still work there.

That’s why on Wednesday, with the help of the ACLU, I filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Chili’s for sex discrimination. My opportunities at a company like Chili’s should not be limited because I am a lesbian who does not conform to Chili’s stereotypes about what a woman should look like.

Learn more about the legal action

After I was forced to quit, I was unemployed for a month. I finally found a new server job, but as the new employee, I get fewer hours on the schedule and so I’m earning significantly less than I did at Chili’s.

I am now working my way back up the ladder. Who knows how long it will be before I am considered for a management position again. My dream of buying my first home is on hold, which obviously disappoints me. But the alternative — being forced to conform to a stereotype that conflicts with my identity every time I go to work — would have been unbearable.

View comments (93)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

She's asking for equality, not sympathy. And if you think that it's easy to find another job that pays equal to what she was getting in one place of employment, you don't understand the restaurant business. Note that she mentioned *hours* resulting in less pay, not less *per* hour. Working your way up (through time/seniority) the hierarchy of servers to have more and better hours is standard in the restaurant business. Bottom line, she was not wearing anything inappropriate and should not have opportunities barred and blocked just for wearing non-gender conforming but professional clothes.

Sherry Baker

Another Anonymous coward who doesn't understand that you don't change the world by conforming to it.

Greg

Did you miss the part where she was forced to quit? Stop with the victim blaming.

Anonymous

Wow, your empathy is astounding.

Anonymous

Maybe you should consider that your comment has nothing to do with her actual complaint.

Anonymous

Wow way to victim blame you ignorant ass hole! The complaint filed has nothing to do with the fact she's making less money, it was filed because she was discriminated against!! Go back to commenting on Trump's tweets!

Anonymous

aaand the dumbest comment on the internet for January 17th, 2019, award goes to....

Anonymous

Maybe before the manager denied her a promotion because she didn't conform to his arbitrary standard he should have lined her up with another job somewhere else.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

She didn't create this problem. The management did. They need to make up for it. In addition, they need to be penalized for discriminating.

judy renner

no wonder anonymous stays anonymous

Sheldon

Fight the power. I hope you win.

Pages

Stay Informed