University fires non-binary bookshop employee for wearing lipstick and ‘expressing their identity’
A non-binary person who worked at a university bookstore has said they were fired in part for wearing brightly coloured lipstick.
Stuart Morrison, who uses they/them and he/him pronouns, said that they were told on March 3 that they were being fired from their job at Kennesaw State University (KSU), Georgia, in part for violating personal appearance rules in the university’s employee handbook.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Morrison said they were called in for a meeting on February 25 after complaints about their “unprofessional appearance”. They often wore black, blue or green lipstick to work in the KSU bookstore.
Morrison, 30, said they continued to wear the lipstick after the meeting, adding: “I was wearing them, in part, to express that I’m non-binary.”
In their letter of termination, they were told to “tone down the lipstick color and discontinue wearing black, bright blue and bright green lipstick”, as the colours were “unprofessional”.
According to the employee handbook: “Kennesaw State University is a varying environment and it is difficult for the university to have one uniform dress code… Employees are required to dress in appropriate attire and to behave in a professional, business-like manner.”
Other reasons for the termination of their contract included forgetting their name tag and needing time off work. The former bookstore worker said they suffer from PTSD and other psychiatric conditions that can contribute to memory loss.
Morrison said they had also been cited for not following protocol multiple times, which would have been reason enough to fire them, and said that adding the lipstick as an issue seemed unnecessary.
They said: “Being fired is not a fun thing in general, but it felt discriminatory. The fact that they chose to use that excuse just feels wrong.”
Michael Shutt, southern regional director for Lambda Legal, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that employees had “long been protected from discrimination” for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
Morrison said they had filed a complaint with KSU’s Office of Institutional Equity.