As America's finest presidential candidates criss-cross the country, one side is talking about inclusion while the other preaches a message of exclusion, and ideas of acceptance and discrimination are playing out in small, local, everyday ways. Earlier this week a woman in Richmond, Va., claims she was fired by a local KFC restaurant manager about an hour after being hired once the manager found out she was transgender.
Georgia Carter contacted a local TV station in Richmond after she received a phone call from the manager telling her not to come in for training the following day. Carter told a local reporter the restaurant's management said they could not hire her because her driver's license identified her as a male, and they were not sure which bathroom she could use.
In response to the allegations, and after an internal investigation, KFC's chief people officer John Kurnick released a statement to Eater:
"KFC's policy is to treat everyone fairly, equally and with respect, and we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Upon learning of this allegation, the franchisee who owns this Richmond restaurant conducted an immediate and thorough investigation. The manager has been terminated for violating the franchisee's anti-discrimination policy, which is inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation. The franchisee's leadership has also had a conversation with Ms. Carter, offering her employment at this restaurant or any of their Richmond area KFC restaurants, effective immediately. Additionally, the franchisee is emphasizing sensitivity and compliance with their policies to keep this from happening again."
This recent incident isn't the first of its kind in the United States. Last March, one anonymous Indiana restaurateur spoke out about how he already discriminates against LGBT diners.
Currently in the state of Virginia, there is no statewide law to protect people from discrimination on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity and expression in the private workplace. Equality Virginia communications manager Brandon Day says Carter has not reached out to the organization, but notes this type of workplace discrimination is all too common around the state. "Like Miss Carter, people just want to work and they are being denied that opportunity just based upon who they are, and that's unfortunate," said Day.
Day says his organization has been fighting for equal rights for members of the LGBT community since it was founded in 1989. During this year's legislative session in Virginia there were four bills that sought to put employment in non-discrimination protection, but those bills did not pass through the subcommittee voting phase. Day notes "there's been a lot of bipartisan support for passing non-discrimination in employment, but nothing has passed yet."
The organization recently started the Equality Means Business program in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, attracting large and small companies to sign on saying they support the hiring of LGBT employees. Day says the Equality Virginia organization hopes to sign up more organizations in the future: "There is a lot of support coming from businesses, but there are just some places in between that we're still missing."