X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
In Hamlet, Polonius remarks, “Apparel oft proclaims the man.” A more modern saying might be: “Apparel should proclaim the corporate image.” In Peter Oiler v. Winn Dixie Stores, Inc., filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana at New Orleans, truck driver Peter Oiler and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union contended that the supermarket giant fired Oiler because he is transgender and occasionally dresses in women’s clothing and adopts a female persona. The suit, filed on October 23, states that the term transgender “refers to a person whose anatomical sex is sometimes inconsistent with their feelings about their gender.” It is the first case in the state of Louisiana — and perhaps in the United States — that seeks relief for transgender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The action began after Greg Miles, Oiler’s supervisor at Winn Dixie, called a meeting with the trucker on October 29, 1999, approximately a year after Oiler had asked Miles to take action against a rumor circulating throughout the company that Oiler was gay. At that meeting, Miles asked if the rumor had subsided. When Oiler said it had, Miles allegedly asked if Oiler was, in fact, gay. The 20-year employee said he is not gay, but that he is transgender. “[Miles] said ‘Transgender? You’re fired … What’s transgender?’ ” said ACLU of Louisiana attorney Ronald L. Wilson, who is handling Oiler’s case with Jennifer Middleton, staff attorney at the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “ When [Miles] found out what it is, he said, ‘You’re definitely fired.’ In the year 2000, you’d hope we’d have gotten beyond judging someone for something other than their job performance.” American Lawyer Media News Service called Winn Dixie’s corporate headquarters, based in Jacksonville, Fla., to determine which firm would be representing the company. “We’ve just received [the lawsuit]. As of [October 25], we hadn’t even received the lawsuit,” said Winn Dixie Public Relations Director Mickey Clerc. “I don’t think it’s been assigned yet.” When asked for the official reason behind Oiler’s termination, Clerc said, “We don’t comment on pending litigation at all. Period.” The facts listed in the suit stated that Oiler, an employee with above-average performance ratings, had five meetings with Winn Dixie Managers between Nov. 4, 1999 and Jan. 5, 2000. “Oiler continued to stress in these meetings that he had no intention of wearing women’s clothes at work, and would abide by company dress codes on the job as he always had,” according to court papers. “I could understand if my client was driving a Winn Dixie truck in female clothing,” Wilson said. “[Winn Dixie] is very image conscious, but they’ve created a national spectacle by terminating him.” Despite this, Winn Dixie went ahead with the termination of Oiler at a meeting on Jan. 5. Wilson said this case, which he expects will go to trial between six months and one year from now, would bring an important issue to light. “You’re getting into [gender] stereotyping and how far a company can go,” Wilson said. “I don’t think cross-dressing is as rare a phenomenon as everyone thinks it is.” Wilson said that, although he does not anticipate losing, he would certainly appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The 5th Circuit, at one time, was at the forefront of Civil rights matters,” Wilson said. “Now, next to the 4th Circuit, it’s probably the most conservative in employment and civil rights matters. It’s extremely conservative.” However, Wilson does not see the proclivities of a court impeding this case’s road to justice. “Right is right,” Wilson said. The attorney said Winn Dixie should give strong consideration to a settlement. “I would think it would be in their best interest to resolve this matter to everyone’s satisfaction,” Wilson said. Wilson implied that the most damning evidence against Winn Dixie might come from the company itself. “Mr. Oiler has tape-recorded conversations that make it clear why he was fired,” Wilson said, adding that the tapes would be admissible, as Louisiana law permits a conversation to be recorded with the consent of only one party. However this case plays out, Wilson, who said he could be reached at his office as late as three or four in the morning, appears ready for the long haul. “Once you cross the Rubicon,” Wilson explained, “there’s no turning back.”

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.