ShariLynn Robinson-Lynk was a dedicated social worker in an Alzheimer’s unit at a senior center. She was a dedicated employee who took pride in her work and career. And while Shari, who formerly went by the name Kimya, had never hidden the fact that she was a lesbian, once she began dating a female at the center, it was only then that the harassment began.
“I started to receive a lot of hate mail, hate voicemail… my tires were slashed, my car was keyed…”
Every time Shari experienced this harassment, she reported it to her administrator. But nothing was ever done.
That is, until one morning Shari was called into her administrator’s office when she was abruptly told that it would be her last day working there.
Shari couldn’t believe she was fired. She had always been a hardworking and loyal employee. Yet, unexpectedly, she had now lost her job for reasons that had nothing to do with her job performance.
When she asked why she was being fired, she was told point blank that it was because she is gay. She was then handed a letter with company letterhead that explained that Shari was being fired because of her sexual orientation. As she left the building, she recalls that she could still hear people laughing as she walked out the door.
“I remember thinking, what do I say to my daughter? I’m going to be home before she’s home.”
Shortly after being terminated from her position, Shari met with a lawyer to discuss what had happened and assess her options.
The lawyer asked, “Are you sure they didn’t do that because you’re black? Are you sure they didn’t do that because you’re a mother?”
The lawyer went through a long list of things that are protected in Michigan. Sadly, sexual orientation and gender identity were not on that list.
“There’s nothing we can do. This isn’t a protected part of you.”
Shari had no recourse from being fired. Because the laws in Michigan don’t offer concrete protections to gay and transgender people, Shari struggled to pay rent and provide a life for her daughter—simply because she is gay.
And Shari is not alone. Today, in states around the country, people can still be fired, denied housing or refused service at a public institution, simply because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
By working to protect people across the country from discrimination, we can ensure that people like Shari can no longer be fired just for being who they are.
Shari originally shared her story through Freedom Michigan, an effort to update Michigan’s non-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.