Delaney's Workplace Story

Living in a community of three cities often referred to as “The Tri-City region” of Loveland, Ft, Collins, and Greeley, Colorado that were home to some major players in the high-tech industry including, Hewlett Packard, Kodak, Intel, AMD and many others. I always counted on this area to be very diverse in the community.

Northern Colorado is where I have called my home for close to 40 years of my life and I have seen this area grow from a small farming industry to a in-demand high tech industry.

But not to exclude we are not cut off from the rest of the front range of Colorado were we also have cities like, Denver, Boulder, Longmont, and Colorado Springs. All of these cities are also home to a huge group of diverse backgrounds, and yet even more companies that support diversity within.

I was surprised to find that in 2005 when I finally came out to my family and co-workers that this area has a very large GLBT community, a community that I am proud to be a part of now, as we bring even more diversity into our community and no one thinks twice about who we are.

I was thus horrified to be treated badly because of my gender identity on more than one occasion as an employee, but of which only one that I can actually say was full on discrimination against me and who I was. And to which I have undeniable proof of, but cannot get the company I worked for during this incident to acknowledge.

In July of 2006 I had been living full time in my chosen gender role of female for 4 solid months. Things seemed to be going well as most often people left me alone if they knew at all about whom I had been born, and who I was now living as. I felt safe and I had managed to keep my full time employment while transitioning.

While I am not a small petite female by any means, I was not above normal with my size and build for many women living in my area. I was very akin to comparing myself to other genetic females, as most of us do. I also fit the bill of a woman who fit the mold for Lane Bryant clothing.

While I did not have all the “curviness of most of these women who I often saw frequent the store in Ft. Collins, I did fit well into their clothing, and I as was often told, looked like a “fashion Diva” in them. I loved clothing, and I knew how to put an outfit together that looked sharp on any woman.

I had felt safe to be in Lane Bryant’s as a customer, as I had a friend who worked there. Now she like me was in transition and this added some comfort level for me to be in this store. While some in her work environment did not know her past, most knew about mine as I had frequented the store before my going full time.

I had gotten to know the store manager fairly well and made it clear that I was interested in a part-time job with Lane Bryant. Every few weeks when I stopped in, I always inquired if something was open yet. And I was always said not yet, but most likely very soon. The manager and I became friends, as I also got to know some of the other girls who worked in the store. All treated me with respect and dignity and always made sure I was comfortable when I went to try on clothing even after I went full time.

As time went, I found that another store in my city just 10 miles south in Loveland, was opening a store. I figured I might as well apply to this store, even though I preferred the Ft Collins store and the people who worked there.

As time went by and time drew near to the Loveland store hiring, I frequented the Ft Collins Lane Bryant store more often. And was soon rewarded with an interview with the soon to be Loveland Store manager.

In about a week I was told I would have a job at one of the stores working part time, most likely stockroom, but that I would train in all area’s as the store may need me in more places than un-boxing and hanging new shipments of clothing. This was going to be nice as I would make extra money that I needed, plus not to mention I would get huge discounts on clothing, something no women ever has enough of.

It was soon decided that I would work at the new Loveland store. While I was a little bummed about this, I soon grew excited as the Loveland store was going to be what Lane Bryant referred to as a “Double Platinum store”. This meant a much larger selection of clothing, a bigger store and far more work to be gained. Once again I was to be a stockroom processing expert but I was told by managers and training video’s that every employee had to know every aspect of the store so in case they needed you, you could jump in and do any job needed of you that day.

I had managed to get my schedule for Lane Bryant to work within the constraints of my full time job. Lucky for me it was 15 to 20 minutes from each other and I would have to be at work on most days after 5pm.

The first few weeks of the job took place at the Ft Collins store. Inmost cases I was always in the backroom opening the new shipment, but one day I was taken out to the counter in my last 30 minutes of the day and showed how to run the register. This was a quick lesson of about 1 minute and then I had 1 customer to try and learn and put it all together. Not really much time to learn it all as others had done. From that point on, I was back into the stockroom.

When time came for the new Loveland Lane Bryant Double Platinum store to prep for opening day, all of the new employees dug in with extremely long hours of store prep. Store prep consisted of setting up racks for clothing and tables, as well as endless amounts of folding and stocking. Most of this took place in a little over a weeks time.

While I was still scheduled to work my normal 7;30 to 4:00 Monday through Friday job, I also had usually 4 to 5 hours a night a couple times a week scheduled at Lane Bryant. Most of the time, at the end of the night, I told the store manager I could make it in again the next night if needed. Every time I showed up, I was put to work. I always left around 9 or 10 so I could get enough sleep for my full time job. The work was never very physical, just very boring, but fun too as there were many other women to chat with.

As another bonus, I always brought my camera to work to document for the store it’s prep. No one had ever done this, and I felt it would be good training information for future stores. Not to mention I did it on my time at the end of a shift after I clocked out. The store manager, district manager and regional manager were all happy to have this being done.

One of the other woman working was also in transition. While she was seasonal, I became a mentor to her in many ways. Everyday we both worked, she always tried to place her self near me so we could “chat” while folding and hanging.

As the last weekend before the store opening was close the district manager walked out onto the store sales floor holding a bunch of Lane Bryant discount fliers. As she held them out she asked, “Would anyone be interested in going out into the parking lot to deliver these fliers”? I jumped at the chance to get fresh air and more exercise, and do great work for the store. Not to mention by volunteering, I was making it known I wanted to work and would work.

When the DM asked if anyone would help my friend “K” jumped at the chance to help me and this would allow her to ask more questions into transitioning. So between “K” and I, we took 2 packages of 50 fliers each fliers out into the 95+ degree August heat to place a discount coupon on every car in the shopping center and to hand deliver them to anyone we saw.

In the course of about an hour “K” and I had either placed on every car, or given to people hand to hand. We didn’t just target plus women, we targeted any adult as we figured that even if they were not plus sized, they may know someone who was and pass on the information to them.

Every time we hand delivered the discount coupons, we made sure to talk to each person we came in contact with. Never once did “K” or I receive a negative look or comment even though I was dressed in sweet pants and a workout top, and “K” in women’s shorts and top.

Once done with the first 100, “K” and I went back in to grab more. We took with us another 6 packs of 50 discount coupons and each of us took a short break of water and cool air. Neither of us had sunscreen as he had not thought we would need it.

So with a short break “K” and I headed back out into the sun for more delivery and contact with respective customers. The last batch took us about 2 more hours to finish the rest of the shopping center parking lot. Six hundred fliers out in 3 hours was pretty good and a ton of walking and bad sun burn on each of us.

“K” and I went back into the store to drink more water and make a report to the DM of our progress. She seemed very happy with our report and thanked us both for a job well done.

“K” and I finished up our day and I my week of store prep as “K’s” last day was the Wednesday night before store opening. I had taken off 2 days from my full time job as I had been scheduled to work late night Thursday doing re-stock and store cleaning. I had also made it clear to the RM, DM and SM that I would be in on Thursday morning for the store opening. This was to take a few shots of ribbon cutting for the store, and to also be at the store in case they needed me.

I had gotten to the store at 9:30am and was let into the store. The doors were locked at this point to prevent customers coming in to early. The DM and SM both saw me and I listened to the open day meeting of the associates that were in the store. Once again no one said anything about me being there, so I took this as yet another sign that it was OK and I might be needed.

Once the store opened at 10am I stood out of the way of all associates near to the door that lead to the stockroom, lockers and restrooms. I watched and was ready to jump in at a moments notice as people started to pour into the store. At about 10 minutes into the store opening the SM came to me and asked for me to stay out of the way, to which I replied I would and I was ready to help if needed and she said “OK” to this.

I figured I would not stay long since it was starting to get clear that I was not needed but gave myself a time limit of 10:30 to 11:00am as a time to leave if I was not needed. No since in my being in the way, not to mention I wasn’t taking any pictures of anyone doing work because I didn’t want to upset a customer by taking their photo without knowledge of them being there.

As I stood out of the way of all action the DM came up to me and asked to speak to me in the back room. I thought all this was going to be about me taking pictures of customers I was soon to find out it was not. I was headed for a bashing from her that hurt deep and caused me lack of sleep and much internal pain that I still to this day have images of it in my mind as clear as the day it happened.

As I walked into the back area of the store near the women’s restroom and the stock room the DM said “Delaney. We at the store appreciate all of your hard work and we love everything that you have done for us here at the store”. I felt something else coming and was prepping for it.

“We are in the business of customers and without customers we don’t have a business. Our customers mean a lot to us”! I was thinking “Oh my camera might be freaking someone out so I jumped in to say “If you are worried about me talking pictures of customers, I won’t do that as I respect others privacy and would only take a customers picture with a consent from that customer”!

The DM stopped me and then continued on “As I said we appreciate everything you have done, but with you masculine features, we cannot have you out on the sales floor. This would cause us to scare away customers who we cater to. Loveland is a small farming community and retirement community that is not diverse. If they were to see a “MAN” wearing women’s clothing, it would drive them away and we would lose business. This was why I was hired for the stockroom. Do you understand”?

I shook my head yes as I could feel the tears coming from of what was said to me driven into my very soul.. I turned and left in a bit of anger and only said bye to one girl who so happened to be a assistant manager at the Ft Collins store. Later I was to found out she had overheard all this and was shocked to have heard it from the DM if anyone at all.

I went home in tears and fell asleep and not wanting to go back into work my shift for the night. As a person who normally is very reliable at my places of employment, I decided to go in and do my job, even though I now did not feel up to it. But I was determined to work through this horrible incident.

As I went into work, I mentioned this incident to my stockroom manger and even she felt angry by it. I cannot remember if she had overheard it or not, but I think she might have. She had told me to not worry about it, as it was not true, but she understood how it hurt. In fact she was the only person I had told about my past to which she told me she knew, all the managers and assistant managers knew.

A couple of days past and I had decided I wanted to bring this up to the SM and let her know how this had hurt me. As I pulled her aside on evening, she told me that she knew all about the incident as the DM had told her she was going to talk to me and told the SM what it was about.

The SM then told her to do as she felt was right and walked away. The SM told me that the store did not feel this way about what the DM had told me and that I would be trained in other areas and used as the store needed me. This broke some of the tension as she made it feel like I would not be shoved into the backroom hidden away much like Cinderella was in her story with evil step sisters and an evil step mother.

As time passed, I was hardly ever let out onto the sales floor. On occasion if all associates were busy, I would have to take items out to restock, but only when the store was very slow. When a customer did come in and got near me, I made it clear I was there to assist them, and assist them I did. No one ever shied way from me for how I looked or dressed.

The DM also never spoke directly to me after her talk to me. If I changed my hair color or style, I would get a message from the SM that the Dm liked the new hair color or style. This I took to be unusual.

As I worked at Lane Bryant, I was hardly ever given any more than 6 to 8 hours a week. This made me the person on the team with the least amount of hours a week and it made it hard to want to be at work. New employees would start and even they were always given more hours than I, even if I made it clear I was available even on weekends. I was getting frustrated as time grew always being in back breaking stock as those who were to help me wandered and chatted with others on the sales floor.

Six months in to working at Lane Bryant, I was given my first review. Now while it was not top notch it said I had made great improvements at my job and I was given a $.20 cent raise. While not much, It meant I was doing work that was to be rewarded.

In August of 2007 I was laid off from a 2nd full time job which had hints of discrimination, but *I could never prove it. I was having to look outside of the Tri-city region for work and pretty much knew I would have to take a job in the Denver/Boulder area.

I had gone to my SM one day and told her that I had been interviewing and it looked promising that I might have a job. She seemed happy with this and I then told her that it was most likely going to be out of town and off hours and I might have to give notice to the store, unless that is, she could work with my schedule and allow me to work different days and mornings or weekends. I was given a resounding “No, this is not possible”!

I was shocked to hear this as the store was still hiring new people. Why could I not be moved out of the stockroom into other positions? I had been told by assistant managers that I would be good at the fitting room, but this was not to happen. One assistant manager seemed upset that I would leave, but as I told her the SM would not work with me and I had no choice.

I was not able to give a two week notice into leaving. Normally I would, but the new employment needed me right away and I needed the full time work and pay check. I gave a written letter to the SM and left without ever getting to talk more to her. In many ways I was happy to be free of Lane Bryant as it felt wrong. Why wasn’t I allowed to grow within the company as others were being allowed to. I had over ten years of customer service experience and four years of managers experience, but I was the lowest person in the store in regards to hours and tasks.

I had decided in late November to write to Charming Shoppes of Delaware who owns Lane Bryant stores. I asked about their policy of discrimination against transgendered employees as I needed to know.

A few weeks ago I received an email saying they would contact me shortly on what had transpired on opening day and before I left Lane Bryant’s. In that email was a response from the DM saying she did not remember what she said but that I had been in fact hired for the stockroom because Loveland was not a very diverse city and that it was a farming and retirement community. I had been hired to keep me out of public eye and the DM had suggested to the SM to keep me off of the sales room floor.

I have many sleepless nights over this incident as it hurt me and cut me to the bone. I was feeling like Cinderella even though I was always told I was one of the best dressed and stylish women at Lane Bryant. I almost always wore Lane Bryant clothing at work and always made sure I looked my best.

Today I work doing my main form of employment of IT help Deskside support. I see many people in my day to day routine and I have a great track record of customer service. I always get compliments onto how I dress and the majority of people have no idea about my past. I can only hope I can maintain a contract or become a full time employee to a company that while not rated high in HRC, they do accept me and treat me fully with respect and dignity that each and everyone of us deserves. To all I say Rock On, and keep on fighting for your rights.

[posted 1-26-2008]