Joann Fabrics fires employee who told Idaho mom and son ‘boys can’t wear dresses’

·3 min read
Courtesy of Piper Phillips

An Idaho mom says she took her 7-year-old son to a craft store to cheer him up after he was bullied at school.

They were having a great time scouring the aisles for the perfect fabric for a new Spider-Man dress she was going to make for him, Piper Phillips said in a now-viral TikTok video. But they ran into more bullying when they got to the fabric-cutting counter at the Joann Fabrics in Moscow, Idaho, she told Insider.

The incident led Joann’s to fire the worker for making “inappropriate, judgmental and derogatory remarks.”

Phillips makes custom dresses for bodies of all sizes, according to her website. She explained in the TikTok video that her son, who is autistic, has also been “showing signs of being gender queer.”

“In the last year, my little boy has shown that he likes to wear dresses,” she said. “So, I make him dresses.”

@palousedressco I have contacted corporate and still waiting on a response @JOANN do better #joanns #joannfabrics #lgbtqia #protectqueeryouth #awetistic ♬ Cumbia Buena - Grupo La Cumbia

After she got the call that her son had been bullied in school that day, Phillips said she picked him up Sept. 7 with his favorite treats from McDonald’s and told him they were going to Joann’s to pick out fabric for his next dress, she said in the TikTok.

They had already decided on making a Spider-Man dress, and her son was searching for blue fabric for the sleeves, she said.

“I see who’s at the cut counter, and I’m already worried,” she said. Phillips explained she used to be a manager at that Joann’s store, and while she was there this employee had a history of “saying really inappropriate things to customers and to employees about LGBTQ+ matters and religious matters,” she said.

Phillips said she gave the employee the fabric and told her they needed three-quarters of a yard.

“And she asks the dreaded question: What are you making? And my son goes on to tell her that we’re making a dress. A Spider-Man dress.”

Phillips said the employee acted confused and ignored the request to cut the fabric. The employee then asked her son if he meant they’re making a shirt and some pants, Phillips said.

“And he says no, we’re making a dress,” Phillips said. The employee asked if it was for a costume, to which they both answered no, and repeated that they’re making a dress.

“Now at this point, I know exactly what’s going on. I look her in the eyes and I say, ‘Please just cut our fabric’,” Phillips said. “And she looks at me and she goes, ‘He can’t wear a dress.’ And then she looks at him and says ‘dresses are for girls’.”

Phillips said she asked the employee to stop talking to her and her son and asked her again to cut their fabric. But she kept going, and finally a manager stepped in to take over, she said.

“The employee continued to badger us about my son’s dress,” she said in a follow-up video. Phillips submitted a complaint to the store online.

Joann Fabrics released a public statement on TikTok following the ordeal.

“JOANN absolutely stands for inclusivity and creativity for all, and we are proud to support our thousands of customers and Team Members who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. We do not tolerate discrimination, disrespect or harassment in any form and terminated the Team Member immediately upon investigation,” the statement reads.

The statement goes on to say the company is “deeply apologetic” to Phillips and her son, and will “continue to educate and enhance our required anti-bias training for all Team Members.”

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