Trans mechanic loses another job to transphobia

Posted on 20 Aug 2009 at 5:10pm
By David Taffet Staff Writer

Spradlin says her gender identity probably wasn’t the only reason she was laid off from a Burleson aircraft maintenance company, but then again, it was only the 2 trans employees who were let go


Jamy Spradlin checks out an old Air Force bomber at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Dallas’ Love Field. Spradlin recently lost her job as a mechanic for an aircraft maintenance company in Burleson, and she believes that, for the second time, her gender identity played a role in her losing a job. DAVID TAFFET/Dallas Voice

Jamy Spradlin has lost her job for the second time in two years. And once again, Spradlin’s gender identity may have played a role in her being fired.

Spradlin was one of two transgender employees at an aircraft maintenance company based in Burleson. But when she arrived at work on Aug. 3, she was told that she was going to be laid off because of the economic slowdown.

That excuse seemed a little suspicious because she said she was in the middle of inspecting one airplane and had three others lined up in the hangar waiting their turn for inspection.

And, coincidentally, the layoff only involved the company’s two transgender employees.

The timing, Spradlin said, was definitely odd. For one thing, whoever took over the inspections would have to start from the beginning.

Spradlin said she believes that others in the company suspected that she was transgender from the time she started working, and that they probably went online and found articles about her that appeared earlier in the Dallas Voice.

In fact, soon after she began working at the company last October, Spradlin said, another employee approached her.

"She kind of had a hint I was transgender," Spradlin said. "We had a conversation about what she does on weekends and she showed me a picture. She was at a point of needing support. What are the odds of two transgender people being at a small company?"

Although Jeannette Burns presented as a man at work, her hair was longer than Spradlin’s, and people at the company were aware that she lived as a woman. Spradlin said she wasn’t surprised to be fired this time, and that her gender identity probably wasn’t the only factor.

Both Spradlin and Burns declined to identify the company.

She said that several months ago, she found her name forged in the log on a plane she was inspecting. The date preceded her employment there. She said she immediately reported it to the Federal Aviation Administration then told her company’s director of maintenance.

"The company denied they had anything to do with it but wanted me to cover it up by putting a sticker over it," she said.

She pointed out that the forgery was a federal offense but covering it up was another felony and refused.

The client that owned the plane admitted faking the signature after losing the signed sticker from the company. But since the company did not do the forgery, that confused Spradlin even more. If they bore no guilt, why would they compound one violation with another?

When an FAA representative came to investigate her claim the next day, she told him, "I’m probably not going to be here much longer."

She said that during her time there, she had confronted the director of maintenance over several issues, but "that event was the nail in the coffin."

She said that she was always at odds with maintenance. Burns agreed. "I was struggling to get them to order parts, to get them to fix the planes the right way," Burns said. When the director of maintenance said, "I hired you," Burns told him, "You may sign my checks, but you don’t issue my license."

Spradlin backed Burns and would not sign off if the work was below her standards, she said. But both said this went deeper than an employer/employee dispute.

"There was a good ol’ boys club and I wasn’t part of that," Spradlin said.

This wasn’t the first time Spradlin’s gender identity played a role in her losing a job.

In 2006, she was working as a corporate pilot and mechanic based at Love Field. She came out to her employer as a transgender person who was about to transition. She was placed on administrative leave that day.

After about a month-and-a-half of negotiations, she received a settlement, agreeing to resign and not name the corporation.

This time, she said she would not pursue any legal action and expected no settlement. The company is based in Johnson County, which offers no protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Had Spradlin been working in either Dallas or Fort Worth, which both have local ordinances that cover workplace discrimination, she would have had limited protection. The current version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act working its way through Congress includes protection based on gender identity as well as sexual orientation.

After being laid off, Burns quickly found part -time work with another aircraft maintenance company at the airport in Burleson.

Spradlin is looking to get back into flying. She said an ideal position would combine her skills as a mechanic and inspector with her experience as a pilot. She would like to find a corporation with a flight department whose policies include LGBT non-discrimination, because she would like to avoid another gender identity-related layoff.

As she applies for new jobs, listed on her resume will be her first position as an airframe and power plant (A&P) mechanic.

Ironically, after getting her license in 1986, she went to work for Transamerica Airlines.

E-mail taffet@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 21, 2009.

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