KFC apologizes, fires offending manager and offers job to RVA woman who was fired for being transgender
Georgia Carter, 27, had been out of work for about a year when she went into an interview with a local KFC on Williamsburg Rd. last week. Sure enough, with her experience in fast food services, she nailed the interview and was offered a job on the spot.
“How would you handle an upset customer?” said Carter (top image), remembering one of the questions she was asked. “You be polite. You’re in customer service. There’s no ‘handling’ them, you’re polite regardless.”
But that expected level of politeness wasn’t extended to her when an hour later she got a call from the manager she interviewed with.
“George, we have a problem,” Carter said, again recalling that afternoon. She wasn’t bothered being referred to by her birth-name, but the next sentence was heart breaking.
When the manager pointed out she put ‘male’ as her gender on her application, she was quick to clarify.
“Yes, I’m transgender, I live as a woman,” she recalled saying. “I am a woman.”
“Me and my supervisor think that’s a problem. We don’t know what bathroom you could use,” the manager said before immediately hanging up the phone, according to Carter.
“It was done,” she said.
To her surprise, the actions taken by the KFC manager aren’t against any state or federal law. The Virginia Human Rights Act protects a number of classes – race, age, religion, etc – from being discriminated against, but the state still lacks protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Its disappointing to think we aren’t protected like everyone else,” she said. “Aren’t we people too?”
Equality Virginia has long been fighting to add LGBTQs to the state’s policy, and said they were disappointed, but not surprised, to hear about Carter’s situation.
“Unfortunately, because it is still legal in Virginia to fire or not hire someone based upon their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, Ms. Carter’s unfair treatment is a familiar situation,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia.
Carter started her transition when she was 19, and she said she’s been handling the different parts of the process on her own ever since. This means she hasn’t changed her legal name or her gender marker on her drivers license yet. But she said she never wanted to be called a liar so she always filled out job applications matching her legal documents.
This had never been an issue; she worked for a number of places – Kings Dominion, Burger King – and she said she’d always been treated fairly.
She recalled a manager at Burger King noticing the gender discrepancy and saying “cool!” when she explained her the details.
“You’re you,” the manager told her, according to Carter. “and when I got my name tag and it said ‘Georgia,’” said said.
Sadly that Burger King closed down and her efforts to find work since have been fruitless. She’s not sure her gender identity has made the job hunt any harder, but this is the first time she’s faced the issue and she decided to face it head on.
After the phone call informing her she was fired, she reached out to WRIC ABC 8 who ran a story on her situation:
It took off like wildfire and support started pouring in shortly after. But it wasn’t until Monday when she got a call from KFC corporate that she knew she’d made an impact.
She was informed her firing was against Corporate policy, and the manager who had fired her was fired himself for his actions.
“She was very polite… she was extremely apologetic,” Carter said of her interaction with the KFC Corporate HR person.
“She sounded PO’ed with the situation saying ‘we do not tolerate that.’”
Carter believed her as much as she could, but when they offered her a job at any local restaurant she said she needed time to think about it.
“Part of me wants to [take the job] cause I need the money, I need the job,” she said. “But the other part of me has a bad taste in my mouth… I just fought you, and now you’re going to offer me a job? Whats the guarantee it won’t happen again.”
A statement sent out to media from KFC Corporate detailed much of what carter said:
The manager has been terminated for violating the franchisee’s anti-discrimination policy, which is inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation. The franchisee’s leadership has also had a conversation with Ms. Carter, offering her employment at this restaurant or any of their Richmond area KFC restaurants, effective immediately. Additionally, the franchisee is emphasizing sensitivity and compliance with their policies to keep this from happening again.
Carter said she was assured by KFC Corporate that she would never face this kind of discrimination again, but it’s hard for her to let go just yet.
Either way, she’s glad she came forward and looks forward to bringing her case to lawmakers in the future.
“I’d like to become someone people can talk to, an advocate or something. I want to help people,” she said. “I hope it opens people eyes. I hope people wake up. It’s not the dark ages anymore, its 2016, its time for us to step out in the light and not hide who we are or who we love.”
And don’t think she’s proud or happy to see the offending manager get canned – she said she felt sad that he lost his job, but she think’s the broader fight for equality is more important.
“It was just desserts,” she said. “You can’t do wrong to people and expect everything to be okay.”
“These are my religious convictions and they would violate my conscience.”March 11, 2016
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