A major northern Minnesota furniture retailer is paying $60,000 to a transgender job applicant after a federal investigation concluded that the company refused to hire him as a sales associate out of concern that he would hurt business.

Frizzell Furniture Gallery, with stores in Bemidji and Walker, also has agreed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to provide training for its staff and revise company policies regarding discrimination based on sex and gender identity, the agency announced Tuesday.

“We appreciate that Frizzell Furniture worked cooperatively with the EEOC to resolve this charge without having to go through protracted litigation,” Julianne Bowman, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, said in a statement. “By revising its hiring procedures and adopting new policies, Frizzell Furniture is taking important steps to promote equal employment opportunity for all job applicants.”

An investigation by the EEOC’s Minneapolis concluded that Frizzell Furniture rejected the applicant for a sales position because he is transgender. A hiring official informed him he would not “mix well with the customers,” the agency announcement read.

Such conduct violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including bias based on transgender status. The act also does not allow discriminatory employment decisions based on customer preference.

The agreement with the EEOC also requires Frizell to report any future complaints of discrimination to the EEOC for the next three years and adopt more objective criteria for hiring decisions.

Frizzell’s website classifies the 29-year-old company as northern Minnesota’s largest furniture retailer, with its original location in Walker measuring 25,000 square feet, and its store in Bemidji, which opened in 2019, totaling 42,000 square feet.

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