Transgender Employee’s Complaint on Glassdoor.com Led to Firing, EEOC Alleges

Federal law prohibits retaliating against employees because they complained online about their companies’ policies, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asserts in a lawsuit filed last week.

In a lawsuit filed on May 24, the EEOC alleged that Educational technology company IXL Learning Inc. violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act by retaliating against an employee for accusing the company of discriminatory practices on Glassdoor.com,

According to the EEOC’s complaint, IXL fired product analyst Adrian Scott Duane within minutes of confronting him about a negative review he had posted on Glassdoor.com, a job recruiting and ratings website.

Fueled by a belief that IXL was discriminating against him, the 32-year-old transgender man,, had written, “If you’re not a family-oriented white or Asian straight or mainstream gay person with 1.7 kids who really likes softball – then you’re likely to find yourself on the outside … Most management do not know what the word ‘discrimination’ means, nor do they seem to think it matters.”

In addition to facing inappropriate questions about his gender identity and orientation from co-workers, Duane felt IXL treated his request to telecommute (due to post-operative recovery after gender confirmation surgery) differently from similar requests by two coworkers (due to situations related to their opposite-sex spouses). Given these experiences, Duane posted on Glassdoor.com in opposition to what he regarded as discrimination, and was fired for doing so.

The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“Retaliation is the No. 1 basis for charges filed with the EEOC, comprising over 45% filings nation­wide,” said William Tamayo, the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office director. “Under the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan, it is a priority to defend employees’ rights to speak out and challenge practices that they believe to be illegal discrimination.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi added, “While the platforms for employees to speak out against discrimination are evolving with technology, the laws against retaliation remain constant. If an employee reasonably believes that illegal discrimination occurred, the EEOC will vigorously defend that worker’s right to raise the issue, whether they do so by filing a charge with our agency, notifying company management or posting in a public arena such as Glassdoor.com.”

According to www.ixl.com, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company’s K-12 learning program is used by 1 out of every 9 U.S. students and in more than 190 countries.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

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