Rachel Rasmussen said the harassment from her all-male crane mechanic team at Boeing started even before she came out to them as a transgender woman, back when they began to notice the subtle changes from her transition.

She’d been at the company since 1989 and had felt welcome on every team she’d been on for more than 20 years. She had a “quite wonderful,” collaborative relationship with her coworkers. They covered each another’s shifts when their aging parents were sick and dying.

That support evaporated in 2010, and the weekly to daily mistreatment that the company allegedly did nothing to stop began. Rasmussen detailed that treatment in a lawsuit recently filed in federal court. 

Between 2010 and 2021, coworkers allegedly snuck up behind her to grab her from behind, called her a slur during a diversity training, and demanded to know what genitals she had. 

Employees joked about identifying as poultry and horses to trivialize her gender identity. People shouldered her in the hallways and played Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” on repeat. A manager allegedly cracked gay jokes as a pre-meeting ice-breaker, “callously” used her deadname, and yelled at her for not supporting conversion therapy. In 2019, the harassment escalated when a coworker allegedly sexually assaulted her.

“It felt like a constant threat,” she said in a Tuesday interview.

Rasmussen alleges the company violated the state’s laws against harassment, retaliation, and discrimination in the workplace. She claims Boeing’s culture enabled employees and managers to harass her because she is transgender and a lesbian, and it discouraged those who privately disagreed with her treatment from speaking out for fear of retaliation. Rasmussen, who this year was laid off from a DEI position at the company that she took to escape the mistreatment, is seeking lost wages and damages. 

Boeing declined to comment on the litigation.

Rasmussen said shortly after starting hormone replacement therapy, some coworkers refused to work with her. Employees stopped greeting her, and some stopped sharing the information she needed to do her job. After she came out, she wrote to HR that she felt like a “zoo animal” because everyone talked about her without talking to her.

According to the lawsuit, employees showed before-and-after photos of her around the workplace, and they told new hires that she was trans. Despite an internal policy prohibiting forced outing, her manager allegedly okayed others doing it. 

“It felt like to me–here’s the time clock, the restrooms are over there, and Rachel’s transgender,” she said. “I was outed, as far as I knew, to every new employee.”

Rasmussen filed harassment complaints a few times a year, but Boeing’s Human Resources Department did not intervene, according to the lawsuit. In one instance, HR told her that her coworkers needed time to adjust to her transition. When Rasmussen complained that managers and co-workers refused to work with her, HR framed the dispute as a personality conflict, writing that the company could not “force employees to like you or speak to you.” 

The harassment peaked in 2019, when a male employee allegedly shoved a broomstick through Rasmussen’s legs while she was talking to another employee. She reported the incident as sexual harassment, writing to Human Resources that she felt the stick graze her genitals and catch between her legs as she tried to get away. According to the lawsuit, the employee had touched her sexually before and had sent inappropriate texts. The company suspended the employee for a single day, the same punishment Rasmussen once received for parking tickets. The same employee continued working in the same building for a year before Boeing transferred him to a different facility.

Following the alleged assault, another Boeing employee who was upset about the incident placed a “trans rights” sticker on their locker in protest. When employees placed brooms on that locker, the supportive employee reported it as retaliation. Later, managers did nothing when employees printed and hung a photo of a crying baby to mock employees who reported their concerns.

By January 2021, conditions at work had her contemplating suicide. She’d given up hope, and to protect herself she gave up union protection and decades of seniority for a lower paying DEI position meant to encourage more women to join the company. Harassment continued even in that role, when she heard a group of six Boeing employees endorse a comparison between transgender people and pedophiles.

The company eliminated her job in January. Hoping to stay at Boeing, she applied for 29 positions she said she was qualified for, but the company offered her only entry-level positions. She’s still out of work.

Rasmussen said she felt worried for people at the company, and she hopes her lawsuit helps change the culture at Boeing, which is currently under scrutiny for the safety of its airplanes.

“Everybody should be entitled to an anti-harassment, non-retaliatory safe environment where you feel safe to raise issues, whether it is the safety of a coworker, or any sort of safety concern,” she said.