Transgender woman sues Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin alleging discrimination

Erin Nicole Kassouf insisted that she was a good engineer in her lawsuit.

A transgender woman is suing Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin and accusing the rocket company of discrimination and creating a hostile work environment.

Erin Nicole Kassouf, a senior control engineer at the Merritt Island facility, filed the lawsuit recently in U.S. District Court’s Orlando division.

Blue Origin did not immediately respond to comment.

In her lawsuit, Kassouf said her boss told her someone like her would not get promoted. Kassouf said she also heard from a colleague that cisgender co-workers debated which bathroom she should use.

One colleague called Kassouf “an “embarrassment as a human being” after a meeting when Kassouf voiced safety concerns, the lawsuit said. Kassouf interpreted the remark to be “directed towards Plaintiff’s appearance as she looked and sounded different from her cisgender female colleagues.”

The lawsuit describes Kassouf’s side of the story as her career at Blue Origin broke down and she was fired in 2023 one week after she filed a discrimination complaint to human resources. She said she began receiving bad performance reviews and was excluded from work meetings, instruction and her engineering team.

The lawsuit said she lost her job for “pretextual performance-related accusations.” It does not go into detail about why she was terminated and her attorney did not respond to a request for comment to explain further Thursday.

Kassouf had a history of speaking out over safety issues and for filing discrimination complaints, according to her lawsuit.

“Notably, Vice President Mary (Plunkett), who reports directly to Jeff Bezos, was aware of the discriminatory actions against Plaintiff and failed to address and/or ameliorate the situation,” the lawsuit said.

Kassouf insisted that she was a good engineer.

“Throughout her employment, Plaintiff performed her job duties in an exemplary manner and never received any verbal or written warnings nor disciplinary citations in connection with her performance,” the lawsuit said. “In fact, in November 2022, Defendant awarded Plaintiff with the ‘Lift Off’ award recognizing her for her outstanding performance along with a raise in compensation.”

After leaving the company, Kassouf said managers texted her they were not allowed to give her references for another job.

“Defendant’s deliberate action was intended to tarnish Plaintiff’s reputation and make it exceedingly difficult for her to secure employment within her field,” the lawsuit said.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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