A group of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals filed a lawsuit Thursday against Texas Chicken and Burgers, LLC, alleging they were denied service based on their gender identities.
Deja Smith, Jonovia Chase, Valerie Spencer and Jahmila Adderley, who are black transgender women, and Daniele Marino, who is gender nonconforming, said that on May 27, a cashier at the fast food restaurant’s Harlem location refused to serve them, saying that there was no chicken. The plaintiffs said the customer behind them successfully ordered chicken.
The group gathered outside of the Stonewall Inn Thursday to announce the lawsuit, which claims sex discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“This step is a necessary step because they were unwilling to recognize their wrongdoing and the wrongdoing of one of their employees,” Smith said of the company.
“When they try to oppress their self-expression in Harlem, New York, it affects the right of self-expression all over the world,” said Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, whose clients include the family of Trayvon Martin.
Smith recorded a video of the incident and posted it to her social media accounts. Transgender activist Laverne Cox posted a portion of the video to her Instagram account, where it received more than 300,000 views.
“We take all concerns raised by our customers very seriously, just as we take our obligation to treat customers, employees and other stakeholders with the utmost degree of respect in an environment free of any form of discrimination,” Texas Chicken and Burgers said in a statement dated May 29 and posted to Smith’s Instagram account. “While we regret that our customer did not receive the level of service we would expect from all employees regardless of the time of day or night in which service is provided, given the very early morning hour, large crowd and a variety of duties for which the employee was responsible, after a thorough and swift review of the situation, we are confident that the situation was caused by an honest mistake made by the employee when stating that particular food items were sold out, and not the product of any intentional discriminatory treatment as is portrayed in the video.”