This Austin Car Dealership Is Claiming the First Amendment Allows It to ‘Out’ LGBT People

This Austin Car Dealership Is Claiming the First Amendment Allows It to ‘Out’ LGBT People

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An Austin car dealership is claiming it has a First Amendment right to out LGBT people after a suit was filed against it for the wrongful termination of a trans employee.

Bradley R. Rudkin, the former general sales manager of Roger Beasley Mitsubishi, filed a lawsuit against the Austin car dealership after being fired without notice and without any prior written or verbal warnings.

Rudkin, who identifies as a trans woman, was an award-winning, successful general sales manager achieving a $350,000 profit during her first full year with the dealer group. This was a $750,000 swing from the previous two years. Rudkin’s team won the Mitsubishi Come Back Cup Award in November 2015 after achieving 540% improvement in sales from the previous year.

Rudkin says comments about her personal life and gender identity started almost immediately after they began working there. Within the first three weeks, a company vice president approached their desk and asked, “I hear you are a cross-dresser.” Rudkin responded, “Do you really want me to comment on that?” The VP answered, “No, just keep it professional.”

Later, Rudkin’s romantic partner (who is also transgender) visited her for lunch at the dealership. While eating lunch in their office, an employee shouted out on the showroom floor, “Hey, you guys aren’t sucking each others’ (expletive) in there, are you?”

Two weeks after that event, Rudkin was terminated without notice and without cause.

In their suit, Rudkin maintains she was discharged from the dealership on the basis of her sex; that the termination failed to honor the terms of ther employment agreement, salary and commissions; and that managers invaded Rudkin’s privacy by disclosing her status as a trans person to the dealership’s other employees.

On Oct. 12, Roger Beasley (the dealership owner) filed a motion to dismiss Rudkin’s claims that her privacy was violated by saying the disclosure of her trans status was an “exercise of the right of free speech on a matter of public concern.”

This claim that the Austin car dealership had a First Amendment right to disclose Rudkin’s gender identity supports the company’s assertion that discrimination against transgender people is not against the law.

However, in a statement to Out in SA, Beasley Mitsubishi claims Rudkin “created and presented fake documents to financial institutions falsifying customers’ income in an attempt to qualify [the customer] for financing. … The night before his termination, we discovered proof verifying that claim on his work computer. We had no choice but to terminate the offending employee.”

Rudkin’s lawyer says his client denies these allegations are true, and that it’ll be up to a jury to decide:

Unfortunately, Roger Beasley has elected to raise, what we view, are anti-equality claims and defenses, including: (1) that, even if harassment occurred, Title VII doesn’t protect transgender employees, and (2) an employer is protected by the First Amendment when outing trans employees if a subsequent suit is filed.

“Every lawsuit involves disputed events,” says Rudkin’s attorney. “What’s concerning to my client, and to the LGBT community, is Roger Beasley’s legal arguments that, if successful, would create anti-trans case law.”

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