RANTOUL -- The federal government is suing a furniture store for discrimination.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says Rent-A-Center fired an employee because she's transgender. Now they're taking them to court for violating the Civil Rights Act. But Rent-A-Center says that's not the full story. They say the employee was fired because they violated company policy, but that doesn't line up with what the government found.
The commission claims their pre-lawsuit investigation "revealed the company's managers disapproved of the employee's gender transition and found a pretext for firing her." They say that violates title seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We reached out to the UP Center of Champaign county a service agency for the area's L.G.B.T. community. They say the government going to bat for transgender rights is a sign of changing times.
"I think it's long overdue. I think this has been happening for a very long time, and it's about time that the federal government has been able to one, recognize this, clarify it, be able to say 'we are going to support trans folks. Because it's very difficult as an individual person, to go and try to take your claim to someone and feel like you're gonna be heard. You need support."
We reached out to Rent-A-Center's corporate office for comment. They claim, in this case, the employee admitted to coming to the store "when it was closed and taking the company truck without permission, for personal use". Rent-A-Center says that's against company policy-- and that's why they were fired.
Rent-A-Center also claims the employee never complained about discrimination when they were employed. The government says they'll see them in court in Urbana.
That's not the only lawsuit the government is fielding on behalf of the L.G.B.T. community. The commission says they started enforcing title seven in the courts four years ago. Four other lawsuits are currently pending. Three have been resolved.
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