Nike sued for seven figures over "misgendering"

Poor Nike. First, they blew all that money on Colin Kaepernick and now a transgender contractor is suing them for more than a million dollars over being “misgendered” at the office. A software engineer who didn’t even work for Nike, instead being assigned to their office through the Mainz Brady Group, filed numerous complaints with both the contracting firm and Nike about colleagues refusing to use his or her (I’m honestly not sure in this case) preferred pronouns. Those would be “they/them/their” in this case. Not receiving a satisfactory resolution to the conflict, the engineer is now asking for a million dollars in, um… damages (?) over the affair. (CBS News)

A transgender former Nike contractor is seeking $1.1 million in damages from the sporting goods giant for allegedly allowing gender identity-based harassment.

According to a civil lawsuit filed this week, Nike and Mainz Brady Group, a staffing firm that hired workers for Nike, discriminated against computer engineer Jazz Lyles, who identifies as transmasculine and prefers the pronouns they/them/their. The complaint was filed with Multnomah Circuit Court in Oregon.

During Lyles’ tenure at Nike — from May 2017 to September 2018 — the engineer was repeatedly “misgendered” by coworkers, the complaint said.

First of all, even though this will probably come off as being rather petty, I would like to point out that the engineer’s name is Jazz Lyles. I went for a number of decades never running into anyone else going by the name Jazz, but suddenly it’s turning into a specific trend. First there was that I am Jazz television series about – you guessed it – a male to female transgender student. And now this dude. Er… dudette. I’m starting to develop a complex.

Anyway, Lyles identifies as “transmasculine.” I had to go to the wokeipedia to learn that the term applies to people “who were assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity to a greater extent than with femininity.” That doesn’t sound like a surgery situation, so I’m guessing she’s “somewhere on the gender spectrum” (as the cool kids say these days) leaning toward male. Fair enough.

The point is, at least in terms of this lawsuit, are there actual grounds for suing both Nike and the contracting firm for damages? Nike isn’t the government, but they can essentially put whatever workplace policies into effect that they choose, provided they don’t run afoul of EEOCm or workplace safety regulations. Though I’m not sure if or how far such policies can go when it comes to trampling on free speech.

Companies can and have banned political discussions in the workplace (probably for the best), but while the raging transgender policy debate is certainly a political matter in the public square, the actual pronouns people use when addressing their coworkers are not. (Or at least that’s my reading of it.) Lyles is free to refer to herself however she wishes and dress in any style that doesn’t violate company policies. But what about the free speech rights of her former coworkers who may hold different opinions?

If this lawsuit results in challenges and appeals it could be an interesting one to watch. The courts still haven’t come to any final consensus on this entire idea of redefining the words sex and gender to suit a small but vocal minority in defiance of millennia of medical science. But in the meantime, I’m wondering if they will hold that you’re actually causing “damage” to someone by refusing to warp the English language (or any other for that matter) with a plural “they” and all the rest of this. What form would such damage take?

People are allowed to say far more mean-spirited things than this in the public square. Yes, speech can be regulated in the workplace within reason, but beyond that, the courts have generally held that words aren’t damaging unless you’re yelling fire in a crowded theater. It looks like Nike will be the test case for this question.

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