Gender-Neutral Ex-Employee Sues Company for $500K Over Co-Workers Use of 'Lady' and 'Miss'

A former employee of a California-based catering business has sued the company alleging abuse at one of their Oregon facilities by being referred to in gender specific terms.

Valeria Jones alleged that coworkers at Bon Appétit Management of Palo Alto frequently used words like "miss," "lady" and similar terms instead of more gender-neutral phrases.

Filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Jones, who lives in Oregon, is being represented by Portland attorney Donel Courtney.

Jones began working at Bon Appétit last March and from the onset did not desire to specify a gender identification, reported Aimee Green of the Oregonian.

"When Jones filled out an application, Jones left blank a question asking about male or female identification. Management didn't question the omission," wrote Green.

"During the next few months, Jones spoke with managers about the problem -- asking them to address employees as a group and present information about gender identity. The managers didn't follow through."

According to the lawsuit, Jones is asking for $500,000 in damages and more than $18,000 in lost benefits and wages.

Bonnie Azab Powell, director of communications for Bon Appétit Management, told The Christian Post that they could not comment on the issue because of pending litigation and because the suit "involves a personnel matter."

Powell did tell CP that Bon Appétit is "an equal opportunity employer that embraces diversity of all kinds."

Based in Palo Alto, Bon Appétit describes itself as an "on-site restaurant company" with over 500 cafés in operation located in 32 states.

If successful, Jones would not be the first person to not ascribe to a traditional gender identity to win a lawsuit regarding alleged gender identity discrimination in Oregon.

Last August, a Portland bar owner had to pay out $400,000 to a group of cross-dressing individuals after he had barred them from his business," reported Casey Parks of the Oregonian.

"The penalty is the first imposed under the 2007 Oregon Equality Act. The law protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender Oregonians in employment, housing and public places," wrote Parks.

The Jones suit has garnered its share of attention online, with individuals and groups taking diverse positions on the legitimacy of the case.

Lexie Cannes, a transgender blogger, wrote last weekend that the lawsuit might hold merit if Jones was legitimately harassed by the gender specific comments of their peers.

"If Jones did indeed ask the employer to put a stop to this and they took no action, Jones has a valid claim, because, after all, it amounts to bullying by both coworkers and the employer," wrote Cannes.

 Daniel Greenfield of the conservative publication Frontpage Magazine wrote a piece on Monday where he called the Jones lawsuit "madness."

"And here comes the lawsuit because the catering company chose not to manufacture a single new gender consisting entirely of 'Jones,'" wrote Greenfield.

"There are an infinite amount of permutations that people can come up with and there is no conceivable way of satisfying everyone, because many of these people are unstable and looking for something to validate their sense of persecution and general state of unhappiness."

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