Discrimination Against Employees: Transphobia In The Workplace

Popeyes Moreno Valley

The year I turned nineteen I got my first job at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. I hated it. A typical day working at Popeye’s was very difficult and busy throughout the day. Tuesday was the most busiest day because the restaurant offered a 2 piece leg and thigh for only 99 cents (now $1.69). The line would be out the door and the store would be filled with lots of hungry customers — which were rude most of the time. Not only were customers rude, but the pay was horrid for all the work each of us had to do.

Regardless of this being one of the worst jobs I have ever had, I met a few amazing people while working there. One co-worker who became my friend was Heather — who happens to be Latina and transgender. At Popeyes, Heather was one of the cooks who started a year before I became a cashier. While working at Popeye’s Heather taught me how to use the fryer and prep meals such as marinating the chicken. I learned so much that within a year I became a shift leader. I decided to start training my friend/co-worker Heather on the register, in hopes that she would be able to become a shift leader. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Although I am cisgendered, I consider myself to be allies with transgender individuals — and I wish this was true for all people. So, I was devastated when I heard Heather was unqualified for a higher position. Heather had plenty of training and experience, considering she had been working there for a little over three years.

Cooks stay behind the chicken, barely visible

Then I started to notice the discrimination she faced as an employee at Popeyes. Heather told me that our manager would not let her work in the front at the registers because she is suppose to be in the back cooking. However, I needed her in the front helping with orders because the store would get very busy, and the manager never seemed to have enough people working. The manager told Heather that it was unacceptable for her to be in front taking orders at the register. Then, Heather was told that she would make customers feel uncomfortable. Heather realized our manager did not want her in the front because of her appearance. This came as a surprise to her because she is very comfortable and confident with her sexuality and upon hiring she revealed to the manger that she is transgender.

According to Michel Foucault, before the seventeenth century, people were comfortable and not ashamed to speak openly about bodies and sexuality. Yet, after the seventeenth century publicly speaking upon sexuality was shameful and penalized. As a result, the language of sexuality became repressed. And the only way to break free from this repression is to revolt against those who try to tear us down. Once each and every person is able to speak freely of their sexuality, the closer people will become more knowledgeable. Similar to my friend Heather, who is open about her sexuality was repressed by our manager because she refused to speak with Heather, and did not take the time to understand that her sexuality should not be a reason to lose her job. All because the manager was biased and uneducated on sexuality.

Our manager should be ashamed for the mistreatment of her employer. The workplace should be a safe place for all employees, regardless of sex or gender. Discrimination against transgender is unacceptable and should not be tolerated in the workplace — or any other place. The discourse of sexuality should be liberated, and we should not tolerate the repression of it.