Minnesota furniture company must pay $60,000 to job applicant rejected for being transgender

A Minnesota furniture retailer will have to pay $60,000 to a transgender job applicant after a federal investigation concluded that the company refused to hire him as a sales associate because they feared his presence in one of their stores would hurt business.

Frizzell Furniture Gallery, which claims on its website that it is northern Minnesota’s largest furniture retailer, has two stores in the cities of Bemidji and Walker. The applicant in question sought employment at the Bemidji store.

According to the investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Minneapolis office found that the company had rejected the applicant because he allegedly would not “mix well with the customers” at the store — which is located in a city of 15,000 surrounded by largely rural areas — according to a hiring official.

Basing its conclusions on a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the nation’s highest court ruled that the firing of or refusal to hire LGBTQ people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is an illegal form of sex-based discrimination under Title VII the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC found that the company had discriminated against the applicant. In a statement, the EEOC noted that Title VII also does not permit discrimination in employment based on customers’ alleged “preferences.”

The EEOC worked with Frizzell Furniture to craft a conciliation agreement in which the company would agree to pay the applicant $60,000, implement an anti-discrimination policy and improved record-keeping procedures, provide equal employment opportunity training to its employees, and report any future complaints of alleged discrimination to the EEOC over the next three years.

The company also agreed to adopt more objective criteria for hiring decisions and utilize a scoring matrix for job interviews, reports the Star Tribune.

“We appreciate that Frizzell Furniture worked cooperatively with the EEOC to resolve this charge without having to go through protracted litigation,” Julianne Bowman, the district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, said in a statement. “By revising its hiring procedures and adopting new policies, Frizzell Furniture is taking important steps to promote equal employment opportunity for all job applicants.”

But Dick Frizzell, the 29-year-old furniture company’s founder, told the Star Tribune that he was not satisfied with the EEOC’s findings.

“We hire people who have the skills or the experience to do the jobs. We have various kinds of people … Native Americans, openly gay people. We do not intend to discriminate against people,” he said.

Frizzell also told the Minneapolis-based newspaper that while his insurance will cover the $60,000 payment, the case created unspecified additional costs for his business.

However, when Frizzell was asked whether he would reconsider hiring the applicant, he hesitated before responding, the Star Tribune reports.

“If a person like them were applying for a position and had the qualifications, I would hire that person,” Frizzell said.

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