When Victor King began working at a Whole Foods supermarket in New York City's traditionally LGBT-friendly Chelsea neighborhood, he did it with the assurance that his being transgender would not be an issue.
Over the course of the six months that the 21-year-old worked there, however, he was allegedly subjected to repeated instances of transphobic harassment that prompted him get in contact with Whole Foods' upper-level human resources representatives.
According to a lawsuit recently filed by King, his coworkers made a habit of referring to him using inappropriate pronouns like "she," "her," and "it." King also alleges that his manager, Quadry Scott, told him that he knew that King was "not a guy," and that he was "not going to refer to you as a guy."
Despite voicing his concerns about his toxic work environment, King says that Whole Foods ignored his requests for help. It wasn't until King got in contact with the Ali Forney Center, an LGBT outreach organization that had gotten King the job, that the store's employees were required to take workplace harassment courses. Instead of inspiring his colleagues to treat him with respect, though, King says that abuse only got worse.
Rather than sitting on his hands and waiting for Whole Foods to hold its employees accountable for their behavior, King's taking his fight to court. In his suit, King argues that Whole Foods' employees were in direct violation of the New York City Human Rights legislation that provides workplace protections for LGBT people. King insists that suing is the only method of recourse he has left.
"After all, if the Whole Foods in Chelsea was this hostile, why would any other be more inviting?" King's suit reads. "It is also a terrible solution to punish the only innocent person in order to avoid addressing the offending staff and managers."
Michael Sinatra, a Whole Foods spokesperson, insisted to Gothamist that it had only just received word of King's lawsuit and that it was going over his accusations.
"As a company, we have long celebrated diversity and acceptance and have zero tolerance for discrimination," Sinatra said. "Our diverse and inclusive culture is reflected in our team member base, including our leadership, as well as in community partnerships here in New York City."