Retailer J. Crew Group Inc. is facing some uninvited guests at tonight’s Fashion’s Night Out shopping event. Advocacy group Make the Road New York is planning to protest the company’s Prince Street store. The group alleges that J. Crew has discriminated against transgender job applicants.
About 15 people are expected to attend the protest, where they will distribute leaflets about transgenders in the workplace. In late 2008, MRNY did some undercover testing, sending transgender and non-transgender job applicants to 24 different retailers around New York City. Only two storesJ. Crew and teen retailer American Eagleconsistently hired the non-transgender job applicants, despite the fact that those applicants were carrying a weaker resume, MRNY found.
The transgender person was turned away, said Irene Tung, supervisor and organizer for MRNY. She explained that her organization filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office at the time. American Eagle has since signed an agreement to change their hiring practices and training protocol for employees in New York state. But Ms. Tung said her group has yet to hear back from J. Crew, despite numerous attempts over the last year to contact the retailer, including a visit to human resources head Linda Markoe’s Staten Island residence last week.
For us, Fashion Week is an important time to draw attention to this issue, said Ms. Tung. There are some of these [fashion] companies that have discriminatory policies in which people applying for retail jobs aren’t able to get them solely based on their gender identity.
J. Crew denies any wrongdoing.
The allegations made by Make the Road New York are totally without merit, said a company spokeswoman. J. Crew does not discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. We have a zero tolerance for any type of discrimination across our entire company.
Transgenders who feel they have been discriminated against might also have the recession to blame. Experts say that workplace prejudices typically rise during bad economic times.
When the economy is not doing so well and employers have a wider range of applicants to choose from, you tend to see more discrimination, said Caren Goldberg, a management professor at American University and an expert witness in employment discrimination cases. She noted that older workers, for example, have recently had trouble finding work after a layoff because employers now have their pick of the litter.
Tonight’s protest will disrupt J. Crew’s scheduled Fashion’s Night Out event, which includes cocktails, special showings of new fashions, and a visit with style guru Jenna Lyons, the retailer’s creative director. In March, MRNY protested in front of J. Crew’s Flatiron District store, and also tried to meet with Chief Executive Mickey Drexler.