Starwood Hotels faces an employment discrimination suit filed by a transgender woman.
An Orlando transgender woman is suing Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. over alleged employment discrimination. The case, Gina Versace v. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., was filed last summer and is currently pending in Orlando federal court.
Gina Versace was employed by Starwood from March 1998 to March 2013. In her lawsuit, Versace accuses the hotel chain of refusing to recognize her legal status as a woman and discriminating against her based on gender, which created a hostile working environment.
Versace alleges that Starwood failed to keep her gender transition confidential, and that her immediate supervisor told her “you cannot work here” when he became aware of her transition. The suit also says that Versace’s managers, human resource representatives and co-workers repeatedly referred to her with masculine pronouns.
When Versace used a women’s lavatory consistent with her gender, she claims she was improperly discipline and ultimately terminated due to her gender, gender identification and in retaliation to complaints.
“The problem is, the majority of the lower courts have yet to grasp the concept of gender as something that transcends the physical body – especially when dealing with bigotry in the workplace,” Matt Morgan, Versace’s attorney, said during a press event held Friday. “That’s why Gina Versace’s case is so important. She was harassed at work, called a ‘man,’ and ultimately terminated, because she didn’t fit into her employer’s stereotype. That’s illegal.”
“Starwood did not discriminate in any way against this former employee,” a Starwood representative told the Orlando Sentinel. “In fact, the allegations of discrimination were investigated by the Florida Commission on Human Relations in 2013 and the agency found there was no reason to believe that any discrimination had occurred.”
[Photo: Orlando Sentinel]