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Local News

Lawsuit: Bolingbrook Circle K staff harassed, abused transgender employee

A federal lawsuit against the Circle K convenience store chain claims that Bolingbrook Circle K store employees harassed and abused a co-worker because she is black and transgender.

Judi Brown filed a lawsuit against Montreal-based Circle K on Aug. 21 that alleges the company subjected her to a hostile work environment by denying her promotions and ultimately firing her because she is a black, transgender woman.

“Employees have the right to go to work and be respected,” said Brown’s attorney, Carolyn Wald.

Circle K’s Heartland Division did not respond to messages left Monday.

Brown worked at the Circle K at 398 S. Bolingbrook Ave. between May 2016 and June 2017, according to the suit. Brown claims in the suit that a store manager and other employees repeatedly harassed and discriminated against her.

The store manager asked Brown offensive and sexually explicit questions about her romantic partners and her body, and misgendered her in company documents, according to the lawsuit.

Brown confronted the store manager about this behavior several times but she continued to persist, according to the lawsuit.

The store manager would ask invasive questions and make inappropriate comments in front of customers, which Brown “found particularly humiliating,” according to the lawsuit.

Brown was training to become an assistant manager at the store but was passed over for the position by nontransgender, white co-workers, according to the lawsuit.

Brown alleges she was told by a co-worker that Circle K “wanted to get rid of her because she complained too much about being discriminated against,” according to the lawsuit.

Brown claims the store manager refused to address the harassment and discrimination she was facing from other co-workers, including a male co-worker who “threatened to beat her up,” according to the lawsuit.

Brown claims in the suit that she was fired from Circle K for attending the Pride Parade in Chicago in June 2017.

She notified the store manager ahead of time that she would not be working that day because she intended to perform in the parade, but when she returned to work the next day discovered she had been fired, according to the lawsuit.

Brown’s discharge paperwork stated that she had been warned she would be fired if she did not report to work, but that did not occur, according to the lawsuit.

“In reality, Circle K fired Ms. Brown because she is an African-American transgender woman and because she complained about sexual, gender-based, and race-based harassment and discrimination,” according to the lawsuit.

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