Ex-Employee Files Lawsuit Against Whole Foods For Alleged LGBTQ Discrimination

By Melissa Garcia

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – A woman in Boulder has filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods Market alleging harassment and discrimination based on her sexual orientation.

Jennifer Johnston, the lawsuit plaintiff, said that she sought employment with Whole Foods because she thought the company shared her core values. Repeated harassment by her supervisor, however, created a hostile work environment, according to Johnston.

“I felt like I was really let down,” Johnston told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia.

Kristin and Jennifer Johnston (credit: CBS)

Kristin and Jennifer Johnston (credit: CBS)

Johnston married her wife, Kristin, in October of 2014. Not long after, Johnston said that her supervisor at Whole Foods on Pearl Street in Boulder started to harass her on a near-daily basis.

The lawsuit complaint, filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, alleges that Johnston’s supervisor made fun of the clothing and shoes that she wore, made offensive comments about her being a lesbian, and pried into her personal life in the bedroom.

“She told me that I looked ‘unf**kable,’ and that only gay people wear Crocs, which I took offense to,” Johnston said.

Kristin and Jennifer Johnston (credit: CBS)

Kristin and Jennifer Johnston (credit: CBS)

When she complained to store management, Johnston said that the company failed to take action and instead retaliated against her for standing up for her rights.

She said that the store’s general manager wrote her up for allegedly playing music containing profane language, an accusation that Johnston denies.

“It made me feel awful,” Johnston said of the alleged retaliation. “I loved working for Whole Foods … it was really disappointing when I wasn’t supported back when I always supported them.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The lawsuit asks for front and back pay, and other damages, in the loss of the job that Johnston says she was compelled to resign from.

Shelby Woods, an attorney representing Johnston, hoped that the legal action would bring change for workers nationwide.

“Whatever their sexual orientation is; whatever their race is; whatever their gender is; that they just have equal rights in the work place,” Woods said.

In response to CBS4’s request for comment, Whole Foods released a statement:

“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to Whole Foods Market,” said Brooke Buchanan, Global Vice President of Communications for Whole Foods Market. “We were notified of this filing and are looking into the situation.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

In addition to the lawsuit, Johnston’s legal counsel posted a petition online.

Melissa Garcia has been reporting for CBS4 News since March 2014. Find her bio here, follow her on Twitter @MelissaGarciaTV, or send your story idea to mkgarcia@cbs.com.


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