Lawsuit filed against Allegheny County hotel for allegedly discriminating against trans worker | LGBTQ | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Lawsuit filed against Allegheny County hotel for allegedly discriminating against trans worker

An Extended Stay America hotel in Western Allegheny County has become the focus of a discrimination lawsuit filed by a transgender former employee.

On June 25, Kimberly Grinage, who identifies as trans, filed a suit against the company and her ex-manager Matthew Figurski, according to a legal news website Law360. The suit alleges that Grinage was fired because she is transgender, and lodges 15 counts against Figurski and Extended Stay, covering sex, religious, and disability discrimination, a hostile work environment, and wrongful termination.

According to TribLive, Grinage worked at an Extended Stay America on Chauvet Drive in North Fayette before being fired on Sept. 15, 2020. An Extended Stay spokesperson told TribLive that the company, which runs around 651 hotels throughout the U.S., is “committed to providing an inclusive, equitable and welcoming environment for all employees, guests and visitors.”

The suit is alleging discrimination under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Allegheny County, it is illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace, housing, and public accommodation based on their gender identity, although those protections do not extend to the entire state of Pennsylvania.

Detailed in the suit are alleged instances of harassment and threats Grinage faced after she began showing up to work “dressed in attire that is traditionally associated with women.” Coworkers mocked her, as well as Figurski, who allegedly made comments like "You are a guy not a girl” and “I don't want a transgender person here. If you are going to do that, I have to get rid of you.”

"The harassment was motivated by Grinage's transgender status," the suit says. "Any reasonable person in Grinage's position would find the Grinage's work environment to be hostile and abusive, as the harassment was both severe and pervasive.”

Grinage, a cancer survivor who is immunocompromised, alleges that she was also mocked for wearing an “unusual,” doctor-recommended face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic and that Figurski expected her and other employees to “conform to his interpretations of Christianity and gender roles.”

The suit claims that Figurski ultimately fired Grinage in retaliation after she reported him to a company hotline in April 2020, and then refused to rescind the report after Figurski threatened her with termination. The suit states that on Sept. 11, 2020, just days before her firing, Figurski said he only hired Grinage because she said she was Christian, and because he assumed Grinage was a heterosexual, cisgender man, and that they could "look at girls together.”

“The former employee responded that Figurski wasn't permitted to terminate Grinage's employment on the basis of sex, and Figurski said that he would ‘find a way,’" the suit adds.

Among the reasons given for her termination is “that people (presumably customers)” complained about her clothes and mask.

Grinage is seeking “economic and non-economic compensatory damages to include emotional damages, humiliation, embarrassment, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life, as well as punitive damages.”

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By Mars Johnson