Federal court awards trans veteran maximum compensation in sex discrimination case against Library of Congres

Posted on 30 Apr 2009 at 6:06pm
By From Staff Reports

ACLU urges Obama administration to stand by commitment to end gender identity discrimination by not appealing

A federal judge has ruled that transgender veteran Diane Schroer is entitled to the maximum compensation for the discrimination after she was refused a job with the Library of Congress.

The ACLU brought a sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Schroer, a Special Forces veteran who retired after 25 years of service, when she was denied a job after announcing her intention to transition from male to female.

"I served our country because I believed in an America that is committed to ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to have a meaningful life. That belief was shaken when I was told I wasn’t worthy to do what I trained my entire life to do because I happen to be transgender," said Schroer.

"[This] decision restores my faith in our democracy. The court understood the senseless harm that is caused by discrimination, and that gives me hope that others will also," she said.

The court awarded Schroer a total of $491,190, including $183,653 for back pay and benefits, $300,000 for emotional pain and suffering, and $7,537.80 for other out-of-pocket expenses that were incurred as a result of the library’s discriminatory conduct.

It is now up to the government to decide whether or not to appeal the decision, and the ACLU has called on President Obama to honor his pledge to end discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment.

"His administration can prove that it is really committed to ending transgender discrimination by choosing not to seek an appeal in this case, and by making clear to all government agencies that this discrimination will not be tolerated," said Sharon McGowan, an attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project, which has represented Schroer since the case began four years ago.

McGowan also said the decision is "especially gratifying because it puts all employers on notice that transgender discrimination, in addition to being wrong, can be very expensive."

In an earlier decision in this case, the court ruled that discriminating against someone who transitions from living as one gender to another is discrimination under federal law. The court compared the discrimination faced by Schroer to religious-based discrimination, saying, "Imagine that an employee is fired because she converts from Christianity to Judaism. Imagine too that her employer testified that he harbors no bias toward either Christians or Jews but only ‘converts.’ That would be a clear case of discrimination ‘because of religion.’ No court would take seriously the notion that ‘converts’ are not covered by the statute."

The court also ruled that the library was guilty of sex stereotyping against Schroer because of its view that she failed to live up to traditional notions of what is male or female.

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