UPDATED: J. Crew accused of discriminating against transgender job applicants

NEW YORK – Gay rights supporters rallied Sunday in front of a J. Crew store in Manhattan to protest employment discrimination against transgender job applicants.

Organizers have filed a job-discrimination complaint against J. Crew with the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

"Until J. Crew changes its policies, it can expect more protests," said Karina Claudio-Betancout, organizer at Make the Road New York, which conducted the investigation and organized the event.

Researchers investigated employment discrimination at 24 retail companies in Manhattan and identified J. Crew as a violator of the New York City Human Rights Law. When equally qualified job applicants applied for positions at J. Crew, non-transgender applicants were consistently hired over transgender applicants, the study found.

One of the transgender employment testers, Julian Brolaski, applied at the 5th Avenue J. Crew store. He was treated brusquely, told to fill out an application and was never called. His testing partner, Leigh Cambre, who entered the store a few minutes later, described a very different experience: "I filled out an application, was interviewed on the spot and offered a job soon after." A separate pair of testers documented a similar situation.

The transgender testers said the study results confirmed what they had suspected from personal experience, but had never been able to prove as individual job applicants.

Protesters called on J. Crew to address discrimination by adopting a non-discrimination policy and including it in all job listings and applications, training employees about non-discrimination policies and practices, and ensuring that transgender and gender non-conforming people are free from harassment on the job.

Released today, the report titled “Transgender Need Not Apply: a Report on Gender Identity Job Discrimination” also found a 42 percent net rate of discrimination for transgender job applicants, a high figure in comparison to rates documented for other populations such as African-Americans and the elderly. Companies at which at least one non-transgender tester was hired over a transgender tester included Nine West, Brookstone, Kenneth Cole, and DSW. Only one employer, Virgin Megastore, hired a transgender tester over a non-transgender tester. In addition, 49 percent of transgender workers surveyed reported that they have never been offered a job in the time that they have lived openly as transgender.

The rally and news conference was held in front of the J. Crew store, 91 Fifth Ave., between 16th and 17th streets.

This effort was been endorsed by the Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union, FIERCE, LGBT Equality Coalition of Queens, Queers for Economic Justice and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

Copies of the report can be obtained by calling 1 (718) 418-7690, Ext. 1231.

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