Is DART trying to water down proposed protections for transgender employees?

Posted on 15 Jun 2010 at 10:47am

imagesTheoretically it should take only two words for Dallas Area Rapid Transit to amend its nondiscrimination policy to include transgender employees. DART could simply add “gender identity” to the policy and be done with it. Instead, DART wants to add about 30 words, and LGBT advocates aren’t quite sure why.

DART’s Board of Directors will again consider an amendment adding transgender protections to the policy this afternoon. The proposal came about in response to the agency’s alleged discrimination against a trans bus driver. If the amendment is approved today, it would go to a final vote Tuesday, June 22.

But the wording of the amendment has raised concerns among LGBT activists. Rather than simply adding “gender identity” to its existing nondiscrimination policy, DART attorneys have also inserted several clauses indicating that the policy applies only “to the extent [it is] consistent with state and federal law.” Because neither sexual orientation nor gender identity is included in state or federal employment protections, the fear is that these clauses could be interpreted to mean the policy is moot.

“I think the concern that I have and that I expressed to them, is they’ve taken a lot of words to explain a simple concept,” said Rafael McDonnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas.

Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal, agreed that the proposed policy is unnecessarily complicated.

“This is the kind of bad drafting that frequently gives our opponents something to cause mischief,” Upton said. “I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that DART’s attorneys couldn’t just write a simple policy using plain language.”

McDonnell said after discussing the wording of the policy with senior staff members at DART, he’s comfortable that the clauses aren’t designed to water down or counteract the LGBT protections. McDonnell said he believes it’s more likely that DART attorneys wanted to ensure that the policy — which already includes sexual orientation — can’t be used as grounds to compel the agency to offer domestic partner benefits.

“At the end of the day, whether they take 30 words or five words, assuming the board votes as we think it will, DART will be fully inclusive of the LGBT community,” McDonnell said.

Today’s meeting is at 5 p.m. in Conference Room C at DART headquarters, at 1401 Pacific Ave. in Dallas. I’ve posted the proposed amendments to the policy after the jump.

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