Daniel Brant, 25, a gay man who prefers to wear women’s clothes, filed a discrimination suit against the salon alleging gender stereotyping.
Days before Daniel Brant’s employment at the Chop Shop was terminated in early August 2008, the 25-year-old hair stylist filed a federal discrimination suit against the salon, alleging its owner, Kathy Thomas, enforced “discriminatory employment practices.”
Brant, who worked at the Chop Shop on Temple’s campus, described himself as nothing more than a feminine gay male who expresses himself through fashion, often donning women’s attire because it makes him feel comfortable.
“I’m not a drag queen. I’m not trying to be portrayed as a girl,” Brant said. “But I like to wear what I think I look good in.”
After managers reduced Brant’s number of scheduled days a week from five to one and his clientele was restricted only female patrons, Brant said he felt a manager was treating him unfairly because of his “flamboyant mannerisms” and unusual style of clothing.
His lawyer, Susan Wexler, called Brant’s complaint a gender stereotype.
“They said the Temple students didn’t want to come to me. The fact that she was using that more or less as a scapegoat, to me, if I was a Temple student, I would be really offended,” Brant said.
Thomas opened the Chop Shop on Temple’s campus in 2002 for students during the fall and spring semesters. It is closed during the summer, however, so Thomas said she disperses employees from the Temple location out to her two other salons on South Street and in Manayunk.
“During the summer, our hours are always cut,” Thomas said. “Everyone knows it, because it happens every summer.”
She hired Brant in late February 2008 and said she decreased his shifts in May that same year due to the summer schedule and because “he was the last to be hired, so he worked the least amount of days.”
But Brant said he felt victimized and credits the reduction in his hours to his gender and his “failure to conform to stereotypes regarding how males should appear and behave,” according to the suit.
The federal suit is currently pending in the Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania.
“If I had gone to work in a pair of men’s cargo shorts that were maybe baggy and hanging off my butt, that would have been fine,” Brant said. “But the fact that I wore clothing typically [worn] by a woman, it was a problem.”
Although Thomas said she was told that Brant often dressed inappropriately, she insists his termination had little to do with his style, sexuality or gender.
“I hired him knowing him knowing he was a cross-dresser, knowing he was a gay fellow dressing as a woman,” she said.
It can be difficult to find good stylists, she added. And while Brant did his job well, after a manager at the Chop Shop South Street location heard Brant referring a client to another salon, Thomas felt it was necessary to fire him.
“That I won’t stand for,” she said. “I’m running a small business. I had to fire him.”
Brant, however, refuted the confrontation and said he referred a client to another salon because the South Street location did not offer waxing, a service the client requested. He said he did work another salon while at the Chop Shop but only to supplement his income after having his shifts diminished. He added both salons were aware about his employment with one another, which resulted in no conflict of interest, he said.
Thomas said Brant’s legal actions are not only illegitimate but are “undermining gay rights.”
Brant argues his allegations have nothing to do with gay rights and are fully about self-expression.
“If there is anything that the cosmetology industry tries to promote, it’s personal freedom of expression,” he said. “This is about personal rights.”
Matt Petrillo can be reached at email@example.com.