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posted Friday, August 11, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 32
Man and his Trans wife sue Amazon for discrimination, harassment
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Man and his Trans wife sue Amazon for discrimination, harassment

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Kentucky man and his Transgender wife sued Amazon on August 9, charging that they endured sustained discrimination and harassment during the year they spent working at Amazon's warehouse in northern Kentucky.

Dane Lane and his wife, Allegra Schawe-Lane went to work for Amazon in October 2014, and quit a year later because they found their working conditions 'intolerable' their lawsuit says.

A lawyer working with the couple said the case is notable because Amazon, one of the nation's largest corporations, has been publicly supportive of LGBT rights.

In fact, Schawe-Lane said, she wanted a job with Amazon in part because of the company's reputation as LGBT-friendly.

'I thought we would be safe and accepted,' Schawe-Lane said in a telephone interview with Fox News. 'Instead it was like a bad dream. Every day, I'd wish it was 'Candid Camera' and someone would pop out and say it was all a joke.'

According to their complaint, the couple were targets of threats, slurs, and sexual harassment by several colleagues at the Amazon shipping facility where they worked. At one point, they said, the brake line of their car was cut while it was parked in a supposedly secured company lot in Hebron, Kentucky.

When the couple complained to management, their supervisors retaliated against them rather than acting to halt the abuse, they charge.

According to their lawsuit, the abuses suffered by the plaintiffs violated provisions of the US and Kentucky civil rights acts, state and federal labor law, and also the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiffs' attorneys said the ADA comes into play in this case because Schawe-Lane's status as a Trans woman was perceived by her employer as a disability.

Two months before resigning, the couple filed discrimination charges with the U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the federal agency charged with protecting workers from on-the-job discrimination. The EEOC declared earlier this year that evidence substantiated some of the couple's allegations and said they had grounds for a lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks both compensatory and punitive damages - in other words, money to pay the couple for lost wages and additional money because the company was wrong not to help them - with the amount to be determined by a jury.

The couple also seeks a court order requiring Amazon to implement workplace programs that would ensure respectful treatment of Transgender employees.

Except for their problems at Amazon, the couple said they generally feel accepted in their community and have no desire to leave Kentucky. Both said they are undergoing treatment related to the workplace traumas they experienced, however, and have been advised by their doctors that they are not ready to take new jobs.

The plaintiffs' case will be handled by Kentucky lawyers on behalf of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, a national Transgender-rights organization.

The fund's Executive Director, Jillian Weiss, noted that Amazon has intervened in other court cases in support of Transgender rights, and that the company's Amazon Studios produced the acclaimed television series 'Transparent' with a protagonist who transitions from male to female.

'We have a company that touts its transgender friendliness,' Weiss said. 'Yet in Kentucky, when a transgender person comes and says, 'Look, I'm being harassed,' they get no help.'

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