(Elizabethtown, KY) Local supporters will rally against the firing of two employees at the Herb and Olive Market in downtown Elizabethtown Tuesday, May 8 at 5:00 p.m., 32 Public Square, 42701. The protest is co-hosted by Elizabethtown Fairness, Heartland Progressive Alliance, ACLU of Kentucky, and the Fairness Campaign.
On April 20, the owners of Herb and Olive Market and next door Vibe Coffee Shop, Serena Erizer and Lori Smith, asked to speak with their employee, Tylar, about the t-shirt he had worn to work at the market. T-shirts are common attire for employees of the market, but Tylar’s depicted two megaphones and the words, “Just Us For All: LGBTQ Advocacy.” They told him the shirt was inappropriate for work.
Minutes later, the owners asked to speak with Tylar’s manager, Julia, who had been given a very brief description of the previous encounter by Tylar. Julia recorded more than seven minutes of the conversation between her and owners Erizer and Smith, during which they share they are working on a dress code policy, but one did not yet exist, and that it would be OK to wear t-shirts at work that depict someone’s church or religion, but that Tylar’s “LGBTQ” t-shirt verbiage was inappropriate.
“Don’t come in here telling me how you like to have sex,” Erizer whispers on the recording in reference to Tylar’s shirt.
After the exchange, both Tylar and his manager Julia were told not to come in for their regular shift hours. Days later, Julia was fired by text message, and Tylar received no further word about his employment, other than a threat to sue from Erizer in a now-deleted comment on one of his Facebook posts.
Without a Fairness Ordinance in Elizabethtown or Kentucky prohibiting discrimination based on “sexual orientation and gender identity,” Tylar and Julia are left to seek justice before the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). The EEOC does currently accept LGBTQ discrimination complaints based on existing “sex” discrimination protections in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, though the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have fought against that interpretation of Title VII in court.
Twenty-two states and nine Kentucky cities explicitly protect LGBTQ people from discrimination with Fairness Ordinances, including Covington, Danville, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Midway, Morehead, the Appalachian town of Vicco, and most recently Paducah. Elizabethtown Fairness supporters have called on city leaders to pass a local Fairness Ordinance since 2011.
“We’ve worked for years to call attention to the need for a Fairness Ordinance here,” said Elizabethtown Fairness leader Mary Rigney. “This is a perfect example of the type of blatant mistreatment LGBTQ people experience all the time, not just here, but everywhere.”
“Heartland Progressive Alliance stands for worker’s rights and against discrimination in the workplace, especially when rooted in dogmatic ideology,” shared Josh French, Chairperson of HPA, the regional grassroots advocacy group. “We wholly support LGTBQ rights, and the rights of all humans to be treated with dignity and respect, in and out of the workplace.”
WHAT: Protest of Herb and Olive Market’s LGBTQ Discrimination
WHEN: Tuesday, May 8 at 5:00 p.m. EST
WHERE: Herb and Olive Market, 32 Public Square, Elizabethtown, KY 42701
WHO: Former Herb and Olive Market Employees Tylar and Julia
Heartland Progressive Alliance
ACLU of Kentucky
RECORDING: Audio of Julia’s Conversation with Owners Erizer and Smith