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Minnesota furniture company denied transgender applicant

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A Minnesota furniture retailer will pay $60,000 to a transgender job applicant who was denied because he would not “mix well with the customers,” federal officials said.

Frizzell Furniture, which promises to rekindle the “romance of home” on its website, agreed to the payout after an investigation found it didn’t hire a transgender job applicant due to gender identity discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Tuesday.

The company with locations in Walker and Bemidji will also implement an anti-discrimination policy and adopt more objective criteria for its staffing decisions after the federal agency determined a hiring official turned down the transgender applicant in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The act prohibits sex discrimination — including bias based on transgender status — as well as discriminatory hiring decisions based on perceived customer preference, the EEOC said.

“We appreciate that Frizzell Furniture worked cooperatively with the EEOC to resolve this charge without having to go through protracted litigation,” Julianne Bowman, head of the EEOC’s Chicago district, said in a statement.

But Dick Frizzell, who launched the family-run business in 1992, told the Star Tribune he wasn’t pleased with the outcome of the investigation.

“Obviously, no,” Frizzell told the newspaper. “We hire people that have the skills or the experience to do the jobs. We have several classes of people … Native Americans, openly gay people. We do not intend to discriminate against people.”

The applicant sought a job at the Bemidji location early last year. Frizzell initially hesitated before responding when asked Wednesday if he would reconsider hiring him, the Star Tribune reported.

The emblem of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is shown
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found the worker was not hired due to gender discrimination.
David Zalubowski/AP

“If a person such as them were applying for a position and had the qualifications, I would hire that person,” Frizzell told the newspaper.

Insurance will cover the $60,000 payout, but the case also led to additional, unspecified costs to his business, Frizzell said.

The company is the largest furniture retailer in northern Minnesota, according to its website.


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