Former GE employee files lawsuit, claiming harassment for being - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Former GE employee files lawsuit, claiming harassment for being transgender

Posted: Updated:
Mykel Mickens Mykel Mickens

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A former worker has filed a lawsuit against General Electric, saying he was singled out, harassed and fired for being transgender.

Mykel Mickens worked at GE's Appliance park from October 2014 to June of this year. He says co-workers turned on him when they found out he used to be Michelle. 

"They treated me like nothing ... everyday harassment, discrimination, intimidation," Mickens said. "Nobody ever did anything about it, even when I said something, and it got bigger and bigger and bigger."

An incident described in his lawsuit centers on workplace restrooms. Mickens says GE forced him to use female facilities.  

"There's two restrooms, you can go down or up," Mickens said. "And I always ran up because no one was ever there. I didn't have to worry about anyone seeing me, because it was always in the front."

He'd get reprimanded for returning from bathroom breaks late and says the company eventually cited attendance for his termination. 

"They wouldn't call me by my right name. They kept using she pronouns," he said. "So with that happening every day, I started missing days. I don't know anybody that would walk into their workplace."

Mickens filed an EEOC complaint in addition to his lawsuit. He doesn't want his job back. He wants GE to pay.

"It doesn't bother me to take on a case that looks like it's not winnable," said Shannon Fauver, Mikens' attorney.

He hired Fauver, one of the Kentucky lawyers who's case eventually legalized gay marriage in the U.S.

"There's a whole range of issues that affects the transgender community, from employment to schools to criminal justice ... all of those are going to play out on the national radar screen," said Sam Marcosson, a University of Louisville law professor.

Mickens, who is legally married to a woman and is a father figure to a little girl, says he's not sure if he was the only transgender worker at Appliance Park, but says he is fighting now for a cause. 

"If you don't speak up, nothing is going to change," he said.

GE representatives from Appliance Park declined on camera interview in this story. They say the company does not comment on employee matters or pending litigation. 

GE released a statement Friday evening after our original report:

We do not comment on employee matters or pending litigation but I can tell you GE Appliances embraces diversity and supports organizations like our LGBT group.

Our employees are our most valuable asset. The Company is committed to a work environment where each employee is treated fairly and with respect, and where every employee is given an equal opportunity to succeed.

We are committed to creating, managing and valuing diversity in our workforce. This means we do not make employment-related decisions based on a person’s race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, veteran’s status, other characteristics protected by applicable law, and physical or mental disability, where we make reasonable accommodations when appropriate.

We also are committed to ensuring that our workplace is free from harassment. Harassment includes any conduct that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment for another person. Harassment can take many forms, including physical actions, written or spoken comments, videos or pictures and innuendo. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Harassment will not be tolerated.

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