Shame on Saks! (Updated)

Until recently, chichi retailer Saks Fifth Avenue scored 90 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. That score is now in jeopardy, as Saks filed a legal brief that says it’s free to break its own anti-discrimination policies and not defend a transgender employee who claims discrimination and workplace harassment.

From the HRC:

Leyth Jamal, a transgender former employee of Saks, filed an employment discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 alleging discrimination and harassment/hostile work environment based on her gender identity. In a motion to dismiss the case and in stark contrast to clearly established positions of the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Saks astoundingly claimed that the “Plaintiff’s discrimination and harassment claims fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because transsexuals are not a protected class under Title VII.” Additionally, Saks goes on to claim that they are not bound by their own corporate non-discrimination policies because “employee handbooks are not contracts as a matter of law.”

This is the sort of behavior I’d expect from a Cracker Barrel or Chick-fil-A, not from a retailer with a very good record of treating its employees with dignity and respect. There’s no Saks Fifth Avenue in my hometown any more (footnote 1), but if there were, I wouldn’t be spending any of my money there.

Saks has backed down and now says the Civil Rights Act protects transgender people.

1. The space once occupied by Saks Fifth Avenue is now a Dick’s Sporting Goods. Which is appropriate, because with this anti-LGBT move, Saks has become a dick.