PORTLAND — A Westbrook resident who identifies as a transgender man his filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, Cafua Management, a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee, saying he was  harassed and fired in retaliation from his job at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Scarborough.

According to Kye Hubbard’s attorney, it’s the first case in Maine to cite new Civil Rights protections since a June 15, 2020 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hubbard has filed a claim in U.S. District Court in Portland against Cafua Management and its subsidiary, Exit 42 Donuts, which owns the franchise at 284 Payne Road. According to the complaint, Cafua Management is the largest Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owner in the United States, owning “hundreds” of the popular doughnut shops in seven different states, including Maine.

Hubbard worked as a shift leader at the Scarborough location from February 2018 until he was let go Jan. 25, 2019. The complaint alleges the harassment began when Hubbard’s manager, Brandon Avery, revealed Hubbard’s transgender status to co-workers in May 2018, despite Hubbard’s wish to keep his status confidential. Following that, the complaint said co-workers began harassing Hubbard.

“They called him names like ‘it,’ ‘he/she,’ and ‘thing’ on multiple occasions,” the complaint said.

Hubbard reported the incidents, and while a regional manager promised to terminate the employees, the company instead transferred Avery to another location, and the other employees quit. Hubbard’s new manager, Jen Arnott, according to the complaint, “began treating him differently” upon learning of Hubbard’s transgender status. The complaint alleged Arnott changed the computer password to lock Hubbard out, revoked some of his shift leader duties, and excluded him from management discussions.

The complaint said Arnott also posted a customer complaint about Hubbard, something that rarely happened, and posted a form listing Hubbard’s birth name, rather than the name “Kye,” which he goes by now. When Hubbard complained, Arnott offered him a sexual favor in exchange for his silence, and called him “sexy” in a note, according to the court document.

Upon reporting to the regional manager again, Hubbard’s complaint indicates he was told to “deal with it.”

Hubbard reported the incidents to the Maine Human Rights Commission on Jan. 17, 2019, and told Arnott on Jan. 22 that he had done so. On his next shift, Jan. 25, he was fired, supposedly for vaping at the back of the store. The complaint notes “Other employees at the Payne Road Dunkin’ Donuts also vaped in the back of the store, on countless occasions, and within view of the surveillance cameras,” and indicates Arnott did not usually object as long as customers did not see it.

The complaint lists two counts: Discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment, and Whistleblower retaliation. For each, the complaint is asking for Hubbard’s reinstatement, back pay going back to Jan. 25, 2019, $500,000 for pain and suffering, and attorney’s fees.

Hubbard’s attorney, James Clifford, would not comment at length beyond saying “the complaint is pretty thorough.” Speaking through his attorney, Hubbard declined to comment. Joshua Scott, the Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based attorney representing Cafua Management, also declined to comment on the case.

Michelle King, senior director of global public relations for Dunkin’ Brands, declined to comment on the case specifically, but issued a statement on minority rights in general: “Dunkin’ and our independent franchisees have a long-standing history of embracing diversity. Discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values, and we strive to create inclusive work cultures.”

According to the Maine Human Rights Commission’s 2019 annual report, there were 508 cases of employment-related discrimination filed with the commission in 2019. The report also notes three discrimination cases regarding gender identity, but doesn’t indicate if those are related to employment, housing, public accommodation, education or credit extension.

Matt Moonen, executive director of EqualityMaine, a Maine-based advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning persons, noted that since 2005, Maine laws have explicitly forbidden discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and transgender status. He also noted a June 15, 2020 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that extended protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include gay and transgender persons. Clifford told The Forecaster he believed this is the first case in Maine to actually cite the Civil Rights act’s new protections.

Moonen said his organization continues to work to educate the public in Maine about transgender rights.

“We would love to think a lot of that public education work would reduce incidents like this,” he said of the Hubbard case.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

Email: [email protected]

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