A Colorado tire company has agreed to pay $60,000 and write a letter of apology to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit after a transgender man sued the company for allegedly reneging on its job offer.
The lawsuit said the company illegally discriminated against Woodward because of his sex and for not conforming to gender stereotypes, violating his federal rights "with malice and reckless indifference."
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit in September 2017 in U.S. District Court in Colorado against A&E Tire on behalf of Egan Woodward. Woodward had interviewed for a managerial position the same day he applied on May 16, 2014, and was offered the job, pending some screenings, the lawsuit said.
A&E Tire Inc. has multiple locations in Colorado, and Woodward had applied for a position at one of the company's two Denver locations at 3855 E. 52nd Ave.
Marilee Langhoff, an attorney hired to defend the company, said A&E Tire is not admitting any liability with its settlement.
"This litigation has been very protracted and the EEOC has been very dogged in its pursuit for a long period of time," she said.
The agency chose to settle to avoid further time and costs, Langhoff added.
"A&E maintains it did not discriminate against the young man who applied for the position … and maintains a strong commitment to preventing unlawful discrimination," she said.
Manager Derrick Haight interviewed Woodward and the two appeared to get along well during the interview, discussing their similar backgrounds, according to the complaint.
Haight didn't realize Woodward was a transgender man, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said that Haight told Woodward he had the job as long as he completed some screenings and drug tests. Haight even gave him a tour of the facility and introduced him to others as the new manager, the lawsuit said. They began making plans for the work ahead.
When Woodward was filling out the forms for a background check, he used his former name, typically associated with females, and identified his gender as female, according to the lawsuit.
Haight then called Woodward after seeing the drug test form and asked him to verify that he checked female on the form, which Woodward affirmed, it stated.
"Haight abruptly hung up after stating, ‘Oh, that's all I need,'" the lawsuit said.
But Langhoff disputes that allegation, and said Woodward was the first applicant interviewed for the position and was told he was a good candidate but was not offered the job.
Woodward tried to follow up about his employment several times over the next three weeks and when he finally spoke with Haight on June 10, 2014, he was informed the job was given to another applicant, the lawsuit said. That applicant didn't interview for the job until June 6.
Langhoff said the company elected to hire "another individual who was considerably more experienced and also protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act."
The company chose to settle with the EEOC at a lower cost than originally requested in the lawsuit.
“We appreciate A&E Tire’s agreement to settle this lawsuit, and we are proud to have obtained an effective resolution that compensates Egan for what he experienced and helps ensure that other transgender applicants and employees will be treated fairly,” Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney in the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, said in a news release.
EEOC Denver Field Office Director Amy Burkholder said in the news release that the EEOC has successfully protected transgender applicants and employees from sex discrimination.
According to data from the EEOC, the agency reached 147 settlements related to LGBT-based sex discrimination charges in 2017, up from 71 in 2014.
Although A&E Tire requested that the district court dismiss the complaint prior to the settlement, a judge denied the motion.
"In doing so, the district court recognized that discrimination against transgender individuals is discrimination based on sex stereotyping because transgender individuals identify as a sex different from their birth-assigned sex," the EEOC news release stated.