Cinnabon employees in Los Angeles filed a civil complaint with the company over its recent policy banning all Pride decorations.
According to the 14 employees of the Northridge Cinnabon store, Greg Reheis is the vice president of operations for 13th Floor Capitol/Pilot LLC, which owns the Northridge Cinnabon and 15 other Cinnabon locations. Reheis sent a message on June 16, saying that all Pride flags in the stores “had to be removed IMMEDIATELY!” according their complaint.
Reheis wrote, in one of the messages included with the complaint, “We do no discriminate or celebrate any specific race, ethnicity, gender-specific group, religious group” or anything else.
The striking workers have asked the California Civil Rights Department (CCRD) to intervene and stop Cinnabon discriminating against its employees on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and to force the company to withdraw the policy. The workers also demanded that Cinnabon train managers and employees on how to comply with laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identification and gender expression.
The complaint states: “We fight to defend our civil right, including our right to express ourselves and to be united with each other.” Cinnabon should be a place that we can feel proud to come to work, and not discriminated against based on our sexual orientation, gender identification, or gender expression.
According to the complaint, after Reheis announced its ban on Pride decors, an employee replied in the group chat asking if a pin would be acceptable. Reheis replied, “Non-specific pins (happy faces, etc.) are okay. “But sports team, school, group or group pins are not allowed.”
According to the complaint, Reheis replied, “Nope. That would be specific for a group.”
The complaint states that it’s unclear if the Northridge store displayed Pride decor at the time. However, after the announcement of the new policy, some employees put rainbow pins on their aprons in order to assert their rights.
Vero Aguilar has worked in the store for nearly two years. She said that she is a lesbian and has “always been proud of my identity.”
Reheis’s messages made me “feel like I had again to hide myself.”
She said, “I began to feel uncomfortable in my own skin.” It really lowered my confidence, and I started to dislike myself when I looked at the mirror.
She says she is on strike because she fears that the company will discriminate against her or other LGBTQ employees.
She said, “In this world, we live in, people are attacked for their looks, their religion, and even who they love. It’s a dangerous place to be.” What happens if you or another LGBTQ employee is attacked while we are working? Cinnabon would have our back, we wonder. Would they look the other direction? “We just want to be safe.”
She said that the new policy does not align with the way her Cinnabon and the 15 other stores owned by 13th Floor/Pilot LLC currently observe holidays.
Cinnabon coordinates many of its promotional events at the national level. According to the complaint filed, franchisees cannot opt out of these promotional campaigns. Stores celebrate Christmas, Easter and gender-specific holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Cinnabon hosts fundraisers for both for-profit and non-profit organizations, such as religious groups, sports teams and schools. This “clearly associates Cinnabon support for these groups.”
The complaint states that these other celebrations and fundraising efforts “provide overwhelming proof that the June 16th policy is in fact a homophobic/transphobic policy only applied to Pride.”
The strike by employees over Pride decor is part of a trend where corporations are hesitant to show their support for the LGBTQ Community for fear of backlash.