EEOC files first-ever lawsuits on behalf of transgender workers

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has, for the first time ever, filed federal lawsuits on behalf of transgender workers fired by Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 1.52.29 PMemployers because of the gender identity/gender expression.

EEOC filed suit against R.G & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes of Garden City, Mich., on behalf of embalmer and funeral director Amiee Stephens, and against Lakeland Eye clinic in Florida on behalf of Brandi Branson, according to reports by CBS channel  WWJ-TV in Detroit.

Stephens was fired in 2013 after 6 years with the Garden City funeral home when she told her boss she was transitioning from male to female. That lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Branson was fired from her job as director of hearing services at Lakeland Eye in 2011 after saying that she would be transitioning from male to female. The lawsuit in her case, filed in a Tampa federal court, alleges that when Branson began wearing “feminine attire” to work, including makeup and “women’s tailored clothing,” she saw her coworkers snickering and rolling their eyes at her, and that coworkers “withdrew from social interactions with her.”

EEOC attorney Laurie Young told the Detroit TV station that federal law “prohibits employers from firing employees because they do not behave according to the employer’s stereotypes of how men and women should act.”

—  Tammye Nash

Appeals court dismisses suit accusing AG’s office of anti-gay discrimination

Texas AG Greg Abbott

Greg Abbott

A state appeals court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit accusing Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office of anti-gay employment discrimination.

In February 2009, Vic Gardner resigned from his job at a Tyler call center run by the AG’s office, where he’d worked for about three years, alleging a hostile work environment.

Gardner received excellent performance reviews until an office costume party, where his supervisor concluded he was gay, according to his lawsuit. Once the supervisor determined Gardner was gay, he was repeatedly disciplined until he resigned.

In dismissing Gardner’s case, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals said Gardner presented no evidence he was dismissed from the job and not enough evidence of a hostile work environment. The court said Gardner presented no evidence he was demoted, lost job responsibilities or was given a choice of being fired or quitting.

—  David Taffet

Man appeals dismissal of suit alleging Texas AG fired him for being gay

Jason_Smith

Jason Smith

The case of a gay Tyler man who sued the Texas Attorney General’s office for employment discrimination comes before the Court of Appeals in Austin this week.

Vic A. Gardner worked for the AG’s child support division for about three years. He received excellent performance reviews until an office Halloween costume party, the suit alleges. When he attended dressed as a geisha girl, his supervisor determined he was gay.

Once his sexual orientation was assumed by the supervisor, he was repeatedly disciplined until he resigned in February, according to his attorney, Jason Smith of Fort Worth.

In a sworn affidavit, the supervisor admitted he had a religious objection to Gardner being gay.

“You are who you are, but try not to be so out,” Smith said his client was told.

Knowing Gardner’s father was a Baptist minister, the supervisor asked Gardner at one point how he could do that to his father.

In October 2010, a lower court judge ruled the AG had immunity from prosecution and dismissed the case. Gardner appealed in November 2010 but withdrew his appeal in January 2011.

Gardner’s new appeal is asking the court to order a jury trial. The AG contends all Gardner can do is ask for reinstatement. Smith said his client is entitled to lost wages and more.

—  David Taffet

STUDY: Gay men in Texas must apply for 3 times as many jobs before getting an interview

Dana Rudoph at Keen News Service looks at the findings from a Harvard researcher’s recent study on anti-LGBT job discrimination.

Rudolph reports that the researcher sent 1,769 pairs of fictitious resumes to private employers in seven states, including, you guessed it, Texas. Each pair of resumes consisted of one from an obviously gay man and one from an apparently straight one.

Overall, the study found that the straight applicants were 1.5 times more likely to receive callbacks on their resumes than the gay applicants. The straight applicants had to apply for fewer than nine jobs before getting an interview, whereas the gay ones had to apply for almost 14. But the results varied widely across the seven states:

In New York, Pennsylvania, and California, the gap between callbacks for gay and heterosexual “applicants” was insignificant.

But in Texas, résumés of heterosexual men received more than three times as many callbacks as those of gay men. Heterosexual men would need to apply for only eight jobs to get an interview, versus 27 for gay men.

In Ohio, résumés of heterosexual men received over two-and-a-half times as many callbacks, and in Florida, almost twice as many.

The full study, “Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination against Openly Gay Men in the United States,” can be found in the September 2011 issue of the American Journal of Sociology.

—  John Wright

Professor files federal lawsuit accusing Tarrant County College of anti-gay discrimination

Jackie Gill, left, watches as Lambda Legal staff attorney Ken Upton speaks to a reporter Wednesday morning during a press conference announcing Gill’s employment discrimination lawsuit against Tarrant County College.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE COMPLAINT

Jacqueline “Jackie” Gill today filed suit against a professor and a dean at Northeast Campus of Tarrant County College in Hurst, claiming that after serving as a full-time temporary English professor for about a year, she was denied the opportunity to apply for permanent position with the school because of the department chair’s bias against what he perceived as her sexual orientation.

Gill is represented in the lawsuit by Lambda Legal South Central Region staff attorney Ken Uptown, joined by pro bono counsel Benjamin D. Williams from the law firm of Gibsonb, Dunn and Crutcher. The suit names as defendants chair of Northeast Campus’ English Department, Eric Devlin, and Northeast Campus Humanities Division Dean Antonio R. Howell.

Gill said although she is a lesbian and has never tried to hide that fact, she had never talked about her orientation with Devlin or anyone else at the school.

Gill said that in October a female “dual-enrollment” student — a high school student who was also taking college classes — in Gill’s distance learning class cheated by stealing an exam and skipped some classes. The student’s high school counselor told Gill that the student has a history of disruptive behavior, and when the student dropped the class, Gill was told the situation was closed.

—  admin

Lambda Legal to file employment discrimination lawsuit on behalf of former Texas state employee

Lambda Legal is planning a press conference in Hurst on Wednesday morning to announce a federal employment discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a former state employee. Tom Warnke, a spokesman for the LGBT civil rights group, said this afternoon that he couldn’t release any additional details until the press conference, because the lawsuit has not yet been filed.

Below is what little info we have at this point. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

Lambda Legal to File Federal Employment Discrimination Lawsuit on Behalf of Former State Employee

WHEN: Wednesday, September 7, 2011, 10:00am.
WHERE: Holiday Inn Express & Suites, 820 Thousand Oaks Drive, Hurst, TX
WHO: Kenneth Upton, Jr., Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office, Benjamin D. Williams, pro-bono co-counsel with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and Lambda Legal’s client will be available for interviews.

—  John Wright

RECORDING THE INJUSTICE

<<<BACK TO COVER STORY

Anecdotally, the evidence for widespread discrimination against transgender people has existed for a long, long time. But in February, the National Center for Transgender Equality paired with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to release a scientific survey of thousands of American transgender and gender non-conforming people in what they call the “first 360-degree picture of discrimination” against these groups.

The result is called “Injustice at Every Turn,” and shows the many ways in which transgender and gender non-conforming people are negatively affected by a variety of issues including structural racism, poverty and employment discrimination.

The report doesn’t mince words: Researchers found that “instead of recognizing that the moral failure lies in society’s unwillingness to embrace different gender identities and expressions, society blames transgender and gender non-conforming people for bringing the discrimination and violence on themselves.”

Researchers also assert that the source of this “moral failure” is likely to be foundational institutions like churches, schools and workplaces. And the findings of “Injustice at Every Turn” back up their powerful statements.

While the experience of discrimination was “pervasive” throughout the 6,450-person sample, researchers found that structural racism, combined with anti-transgender bias, was “especially devastating.” Transgender people who are also African-American are, for example, far more likely than white transgender people to be victims of police brutality.

Measuring poverty, researchers found that their transgender respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty — making less than $10,000 per year — than their fellow Americans.

Transgender people are also twice as likely as to be unemployed, and the numbers are even more discouraging for transgender people of color: They experience unemployment at up to four times the national unemployment rate.

Forty-one percent of the survey respondents reported attempting suicide, a number researchers called “staggering” when compared to the 1.6 percent of the general population that does so. Transgender people who are unemployed, bullied or the victims of sexual assault were more likely to have attempted suicide.

School is not a safe place for many transgender children and teens, researchers found. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they’d been harassed at school, and a sixth reported leaving a school because of their inability to escape harassment, assault and sexual violence.

At work, 90 percent of survey respondents said they’d been harassed, mistreated or discriminated against or tried to hide their transgender status or non-conformity in an attempt to avoid it. Nearly half said they’d been fired, not hired or denied a promotion. Unemployed respondents had more than double the HIV infection rate and double the rate of drinking and drug use.

Researchers found that one-fifth of the respondents had been homeless at some point in their lives, and more than half of those who’d tried to seek assistance at a shelter reported being harassed by staff or other residents.

American Indian transgender people were most likely to say they’d been denied a home or apartment.

Updated and accurate identification is difficult to obtain for transgender people — one fifth reported being able to update all of their records with their new gender. A third had no records updated or accurate. Forty-one percent of transgender people live without identification that matches their gender identity.

Going to the police for help is reported to be an uncomfortable prospect for 46 percent of the survey respondents, and a fifth of the respondents reported harassment by the police. Race complicated this further: 38 and 36 percent of black and multi-racial respondents reported harassment by police.

Doctors also appear to have little experience with transgender needs, with half of the survey respondents reporting they had to educate their own medical providers about transgender care.

Transgender people have HIV at four times the national average. Smoking, drug and alcohol use are more prevalent among transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Despite all this, researchers called transgender people “resilient,” noting that after transitioning, more than three-fourths of respondents felt better at work. Transgender people are far more likely than people in the general population to return to school between the ages of 25 and 44.

Researchers concluded with a “call to action” to eliminate the “pervasive inhumanity” displayed in the survey results, noting that “action or continued inaction will make a significant difference between the current climate of discrimination and violence and a world of freedom and equality.”

— Andrea Grimes

—  John Wright

LGBT group says 2 bills in Okla. would ‘turn back the clock on fifty years of civil rights progress’

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin

Oklahoma’s LGBT advocacy organization, The Equality Network, expressed outrage Tuesday over passage of two bills by the state Legislature.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not prohibited by Oklahoma state law. But the two bills would impede the right to sue based on any type of discrimination, according to TEN.

SB763 creates an office of Civil Rights Enforcement. But this office assumes duties of the current independent Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, a state agency, and puts it under the attorney general.

SB837 was intended to modernize language in the state’s nondiscrimination statutes and, in its original form, added “genetic information” to the protected categories. But as the bill made its way through the Legislature, it changed. Under the amended bill, all complaints would have to be made within 180 days of the alleged incident of bias. If the complaint is over employment discrimination, a civil suit could be filed only after obtaining a Notice of a Right to Sue from the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission.

“It is our belief that the Oklahoma Legislature is politicizing and impeding the mechanisms that protect citizens’ civil rights.” TEN President Kathy L. Williams said in a press release. “Without access to the services of an independent and nonpartisan Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, many victims of bias will not have the financial means to pursue civil rights claims against discriminatory employers. In a session where the legislature has already moved to repeal affirmative action and capped noneconomic damage awards, it is clear that many legislators are attempting to shield corporations from any culpability for their actions, however harmful they may be to ordinary Oklahomans.  In our increasingly diverse society, these short-sighted actions will alienate – not attract – the world-class employers our representatives claim they wish to bring to our state.  We cannot turn back the clock on fifty years of civil rights progress and expect Oklahoma to be perceived as forward-thinking, welcoming place.”

Oklahoma’s governor, Mary Fallin, has not said if she will sign the bills. On its Twitter feed, TEN urged people to tell Fallin not to sign the bills. Fallin’s office can be reached at info@gov.ok.gov or 405-521-2342.

—  David Taffet

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Hearing set on bills to remove ‘homosexual conduct’ law from books

Daniel Williams

DANIEL WILLIAMS | Legislative Queery

This week was the 12th of Texas’ 20-week regular legislative session, held in odd-numbered years. The urgency of looming deadlines has pressed lawmakers into a flurry of activity with committee hearings lasting into the wee hours of the morning and lawmakers engaging in hours-long floor debates. While the heated budget fight continues to dominate headlines, several key bills important to the LGBT community have quietly made progress this week.

On Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee considered legislation designed to address the issue of bullying, including House Bill 24 by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Duval, Starr, Webb and Zapata counties, and House Bill 170 by Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo. Guillen’s bill had originally been scheduled for a public hearing on March 1, but he removed it from consideration to address concerns that it focused simply on punishing bullies and not on preventing bullying in the first place. At Tuesday’s hearing, Guillen offered a revised version of the bill that included education and prevention elements not in his original bill.

This was the second time this session that the committee heard legislation on the subject of bullying. During discussion of the bills Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, conceded that this is an important issue for many Texans and indicated that the committee would likely pass some form of anti-bullying legislation that included elements of all or some of the bills that have been filed this session.

On Wednesday, House Bill 665 by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, which would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, was heard in the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee. Meghan Stabler, Human Rights Campaign board member, testified passionately in favor of the bill using her personal experience as a transgender woman to illustrate the need for employment protections. The slack-jawed awe of some committee members at being in the same room with an actual transgender person slowly morphed into rapt attention as Stabler patiently told her story of transitioning on the job and how her employers slowly demoted and moved her to less critical positions. Dennis Coleman,executive director of Equality Texas, also testified in favor of the bill.

—  admin

Suggested reading for county commissioners: Trans woman’s testimony on Texas ENDA

Meghan Stabler

On the same day that Congressman Barney Frank announced plans to re-introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a state version of ENDA was heard by a Texas House committee today. Testifying in favor of the bill, HB 665 by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, were transgender woman Meghan Stabler of Round Rock, who’s a member of the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Directors;  and Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas. No one testified against the bill, which was left pending in the House Economic & Small Business Development Committee.

Stabler sent over the full text of her prepared remarks, which we’ve posted after the jump. We should note that this is recommended reading for all members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

“I had previously submitted my testimony, but felt that it was important to deviate from reading it in order to capture the committee,” Stabler writes. “It worked, to the point of me seeing a few tears in their eyes once they understood that their fellow Texans are discriminated against. I had several questions from the members, and even when the session closed five of them remained behind to congratulate me for my testimony and to address further questions. Texas, this is the beginning of change.”

—  John Wright