Tech companies like Google and Mozilla have policies to protect transgender employees. Enforcing those policies may be another story.
by Thor Benson
The tech industry likes to portray itself as pro-LGBTQ, but many transgender employees question just how true this is.
Dell is currently being sued by two former employees who say they were discriminated against because of their gender identities. Cecilia Gilbert, a trans woman, was fired during her transition and told by co-workers that she shouldn’t tell people she’s trans. Helen Harris, who is gender nonconforming, claims to have experienced discrimination on a regular basis during the three years they worked for the tech giant. This isn’t the first time the company has faced a lawsuit over alleged anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
And Dell is not alone. A trans woman and her husband sued Amazon in 2017, claiming they were verbally abused while working at one of its warehouses (they considered some of the slurs tossed at them transphobic). Meanwhile, a transgender man and former Google employee, Tim Chevalier, sued Google last year, alleging that he was fired for speaking out against racism and discrimination within the company while cisgender employees were not fired for speaking out politically.
Chevalier claimed in the lawsuit that the company’s “internal social networking platforms were widely used to belittle and harass women, people of color, LGBTQ employees, and other underrepresented groups.” After responding to certain comments made on these platforms, he says human resources criticized him for labeling the people who did this “white guys,” even though he is a white man. Multiple Google employees told Wired last year that white males have “weaponized” HR by targeting LGBTQ individuals with their complaints.
“I was being scrutinized for my political statements while people who were cis were being just as political,” Chevalier tells NewNowNext. “They were saying things that were offensive about minority groups, and they were not disciplined for it. I think trans people are hyper-scrutinized and are held to different standards of behavior.”
Chevalier thnks that anti-trans discrimination is common in Silicon Valley, the home base for many tech companies. He says that when he was working at Mozilla he was harassed for speaking out against homophobia in the workplace. “What had happened was that a very homophobic person who worked there had used company resources to make a post that was opposing same-sex marriage,” Chevalier said. “When my colleague and I complained, we were basically targeted by a harassment campaign.” He claims one employee anonymously left threats on the blog of the other person who complained.
A representative from Google tells NewNowNext: “All employees acknowledge our code of conduct and other workplace policies, under which promoting harmful stereotypes based on race or gender is prohibited… But when an employee does not, it is something we must take seriously, and we take appropriate action. We always make our decision without any regard to the employee’s political views or identity.”