When Aaron White began training for a position as Director of Operations at a Georgia Chick-fil-A franchise in the summer of 2021, she assumed that she’d spend the next few weeks learning the ins and outs of the fast food business before officially starting the job.
But according to a new lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, from the day her training began, White was instead repeatedly subjected to demeaning, racially and sexually charged comments from her coworkers — and management refused to intervene. White, a transgender woman, was ultimately fired from her position at the fast food chain’s downtown Decatur location under the guise of “tardiness,” according to the filing.
White is now suing the owners and operators of the Chick-fil-A franchise, claiming her civil rights were violated and that management’s inaction contributed to the “hostile” and “abusive” work environment. “Defendant did not take reasonable steps to correct the situation or prevent the harassment from recurring after being notified by Plaintiff on numerous occasions,” the filing states. “As a direct result of the Defendant’s actions and inactions, Plaintiff has suffered emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other nonpecuniary losses.”
The filing claims that, on White’s first day of training, a fellow employee immediately zeroed in on her and made a series of offensive comments, including, “I would eat your ass and pussy” and “On God, I will fuck the shit out of you.” These comments, according to the document, were made in the presence of both Chick-fil-A management and other employees. White states she reported the comments to a shift manager, who stated “she did not feel comfortable addressing the situation and advised [White] to reach out to the Franchise Owner, Joe Engert.”
“[Engert] responded by saying that it should be an honor that with Plaintiff being a transgender woman that someone liked her enough to hit on her,” White’s lawyer wrote. Engert then said “he would look into the situation” but claimed “that if the harassment continued ‘they would have to focus more on the person claiming the harassment to see if there is an issue.'”
Following the meeting with Engert, White alleges that the same employee continued his harassment of her — this time doubling down on the offensive comments by targeting both White’s race and sexual orientation with comments including “On God, I’m not with that gay shit” and “Hell nah, I’ll beat that gay n—a ass.” The filing states that the employee in question “was never reprimanded for his actions.”
As time went on, according to the court document, other employees at the location joined in on the harassment. “Several employees began to intentionally misgender Plaintiff and claimed that they had an odor due to her taking hormones to aid in their transition, when it was proven to be a faulty pipeline at the Defendant’s location,” the document claims. White allegedly again brought her concerns about the harassment to management in September 2021. She was fired not long after.
“Because Plaintiff engaged in protected activity, Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff by, including but not limited to, failing to investigate her claims of harassment, failure in taking measures to prevent further harassment, and terminating her employment,” the filing states. White is seeking damages in the case, including lost wages.
Representatives for Chick-fil-A have not responded to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.