Victory! TLDEF Reaches Settlement in Landmark Gender Expression Case
On May 9th, TLDEF reached a settlement in the landmark lawsuit Farmer v. Caliente Cab Restaurant Co. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Khadijah Farmer, a 28 year-old lesbian who was thrown out of a restaurant because a bouncer thought that she was too masculine-looking to be in the women's restroom.
As part of the settlement, Caliente has agreed to, among other things:
- add gender, including gender identity and expression, to its corporate non-discrimination policy;
- amend its employee handbook to state "persons patronizing or employed at Caliente have the right to use the bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity and expression;"
- adopt a gender-neutral dress code for its employees;
- institute personnel training programs regarding its new policies; and
- pay $35,000 in damages to plaintiff Khadijah Farmer.
On the night of June 24, after New York's LGBT Pride March, Khadijah, her girlfriend and another friend went to Caliente Cab. When Khadijah went to use the women's restroom, the restaurant's bouncer followed her in, pounded on the door of the stall she was using and proceeded to throw her out of the bathroom and the restaurant, despite her attempts to show him her identification demonstrating that she is female.
Many transgender and gender non-conforming people experience harassment and discrimination when trying to access sex-segregated facilities like bathrooms. Khadijah's case highlights the deeply interconnected nature of the struggle for transgender rights and lesbian and gay rights. Gender expression discrimination can affect anyone - transgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight.
The settlement sends a clear message that discrimination on the basis of gender expression will not be tolerated. "I'm very happy that the restaurant has taken appropriate steps to ensure that all patrons, regardless of how masculine or feminine they appear, are treated with dignity and respect," Ms. Farmer said of the settlement. "People come in all shapes and sizes, and they shouldn't be discriminated against because they don't match someone's expectations of how masculine or feminine they should be."
"People are routinely harassed and abused when they fail to conform to expectations about gender, especially in places like restrooms," TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman, one of Farmer's lawyers, added. "This settlement marks a step forward in ensuring that people have equal access to public accommodations like restrooms and restaurants without regard to their gender identity or expression."