Peter Baker and Winn-Dixie Stores

Winn-Dixie Stores fired Peter Baker, a truck driver, who worked for the Louisiana supermarket chain for 21 years. Baker loaded groceries from the company’s warehouse and drove them to Winn-Dixie stores in Louisiana and Mississippi. A good worker, he received above average performance ratings and was promoted three times. Baker had been married to his wife Shirley for twenty-three years.

Two years before he was fired, Baker asked his supervisor, Greg Miles, to put down a company rumor that he was gay. A year later, Miles met with Baker and asked him if the rumor still bothered him. Baker said it did because he was not gay, but a ‘transgender’, a person who anatomical sex is sometimes inconsistent with their feelings about their gender. baker said he had no intention of changing his sex or of ‘transitioning’ to live full time as a woman.

A month later, Miles again met with Baker; Miles said a supervisor had seen Baker off duty dressed as a woman. In response, Baker acknowledged that he sometimes dressed as a woman but never on company time. Miles retorted that he might harm the company image, and so he should resign and look for another job. Baker said he was happy at Winn-Dixie and did not want ‘ another job. When consulted, Michael Istre, president of Winn-Dixie, agreed with firing Baker because he was concerned about the business and the kind of impact that type of behaviour would have on the business and the customer-base if the customers saw him.

Over the next three months, Baker met five times with Winn-Dixie’s managers and was told repeatedly to look for another job because he was to be fired. Although his job performance was fine, they said, his off – duty dressing as a woman could harm the company’s image with the public. At the final meeting Baker was terminated while continuing to protest that he adhered to company policy for at-work dress. Said Baker, “To be fired after twenty-one years with a company felt like a knife in my chest. I showed up for work on time, did a good job and followed all the rules, but I was fired because I cross-dress off duty. We lost our health insurance, and nearly had our home foreclosed. The unbearable stress took, and still takes a toll on our health and continues to affect our 24-year marriage”.

Although Baker sued, a U.S. district judge decided federal laws against discrimination don’t apply to transgendered people.

Answer the following questions

1. Was it wrong for Winn-Dixie to fire Baker? Give reasons for your answer’.

2. What did the company manager mean by the words “harm the company’s image”?

3. From an ethical point of view, what could the company have done for Peter?

4. Discuss fully how this ethical problem has affected Peter and his family.

5. Should discrimination laws apply to transgenders? Give reasons for your answer.

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