A lesbian woman has left her job at Chili’s after allegedly being told to “dress more gender appropriate” to get a promotion.
Meagan Hunter said she resigned as a server at Chili’s Grill & Bar in Phoenix, Arizona, after her district manager offered her the position of shift leader—as long as she ditched her shirt and trousers for more feminine work clothes.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a discrimination complaint against Chili’s with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Hunter’s behalf on Wednesday (January 16).
Hunter, who had worked at Chili’s for nearly two years, told the ACLU she responded to the manager’s request by asking: “Are you telling me that I need to have my breasts hanging out to be successful in your company?”
He allegedly said: “Not in those words.”
She claimed that she “asked him why I could not wear a chef-style coat like the one he was wearing and he replied: ‘It’s for boys.'”
Hunter said a colleague told her afterwards that she had been denied a different role because of her sexuality.
“I had been overlooked for a bartender position because the same manager ‘didn’t want a gay girl behind the bar.'”
— Meagan Hunter
“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,” she claimed.
Arizona lesbian left Chili’s job after alleged comments
Hunter, a single mother who was planning to buy her first home at the time, said she felt she had to quit.
“I had to leave them because I couldn’t in my heart work for a company that treats people that way,” she said.
“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,” she added.
“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.”
Hunter was unemployed for a month after leaving Chili’s, and said she is now “earning significantly less” at her new server job.
“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.”
— Meagan Hunter
Hunter explained that she wanted to come forward to stop anyone else going through what she has allegedly endured, saying: “My goal is to be a voice for people that are shy or afraid.”
Hunter also wanted to make it clear to Chili’s that no person should ever be discriminated against.
She said: “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.”
ACLU staff members Ria Tabacco Mar and Emma J. Roth wrote in an article on the organisation’s site: “When employers punish workers for who they are and what they look like, they lose valuable people like Meagan.
“That’s not only wrong and bad for business—it’s also against the law.”