Western New York pizzeria ordered to pay $25k for discriminating against trans worker

TC Wheelers in Tonawanda, New York.
TC Wheelers in Tonawanda, New York.
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A pizzeria located on the outskirts of Buffalo has been ordered to pay a transgender former employee $25,000 and complete anti-discrimination training as part of a settlement stemming from a lawsuit accusing the restaurant of anti-trans harassment in violation of federal law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced.

TC Wheelers, a bar and pizzeria at 341 Wheeler St. in Tonawanda, New York, was hit with the federal lawsuit last March after subjecting Quinn Gambino, a trans man, to ongoing harassment until he was forced to resign, according to the EEOC. 

Christopher Candino, one of the owners of TC Wheelers alongside Anthony Candino, “made intentional, frequent, and repeated unwelcome and offensive remarks to Gambino about his transgender status,” the lawsuit stated, such as “asking a subordinate about Gambino’s genitalia, including saying, ‘Does she have female parts?’ and telling Quinn that he wasn’t ‘a real man.'”

The lawsuit also accused Candino of “asking invasive questions about his transition, inquiring if he was taking testosterone, and comparing it to when he took steroids when he was younger, and making light of Quinn’s medical treatment.” Furthermore, according to the suit, Candino said he did not approve of Gambino being trans and told a co-worker, “If I just say ‘she,’ [then] that’s what she is.” 

Among other accusations, managers and co-workers made remarks to Gambino equating being trans to pedophilia.

Gambino notified his manager about the harassment multiple times, but the behavior persisted, according to the EEOC, which first sought to remedy the case via a pre-litigation settlement to not avail. From there, the EEOC filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Western District of New York. 

The restaurant’s actions stood in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars sex discrimination. A 2020 Supreme Court ruling found that Title VII’s ban on employment discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The terms of the settlement, announced in a Jan. 22 press release, involve a three-year decree stipulating that TC Wheelers must give Gambino $25,000 in back pay and compensatory damages and enforce equal employment policies with a commitment to preventing such harassment in the future. TC Wheelers hired an independent human resource monitor to oversee complaints from employees, and all owners, managers, and employees will be forced to undergo training on federal anti-discrimination law and send annual reports to the EEOC on how it is implementing the decree, according to the EEOC.

The owners of TC Wheelers could not be reached for comment. A person who answered the phone at TC Wheelers on Jan. 31 told Gay City News, “I don’t know anything about it. We don’t talk to anybody about anything.”

“We appreciate TC Wheelers’ agreement to settle this lawsuit and make proactive changes, and we are proud to have obtained an effective resolution that compensates Gambino for what he endured and helps ensure that other transgender employees will be treated fairly in the future,” Jeffrey Burstein, the regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, said in a written statement.

Yaw Gyebi, Jr., the EEOC New York District Director, said the EEOC “considers protecting members of the LGBTQIA+ community to be an important enforcement priority. We will continue to assure that transgender employees receive the full benefit of federal anti-discrimination laws in all industries.”