Transgender woman settles suit over firing

Posted on 09 Jan 2006 at 11:29pm
By Associated Press


Bennett Klein


St. Anselm College gave Blanchette a letter saying she was fired because she was transitioning

A former Saint Anselm College employee who changed genders from male to female says she and the school have reached a settlement over her firing.

Sarah Blanchette sued the Catholic college in May, saying the college fired her as a senior computer programmer after she told school officials she planned to change genders. Blanchette, 53, then was known as Robert Blanchette.

A spokesman for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders said Wednesday it has settled the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court.

In a statement, Blanchette said she hopes the suit will benefit others.

“I hope that the lawsuit has brought to public light the issues that can confront transgender people in the work place. We are not really that different from everyone else, and want the same basic things out of life: happiness, love, security, comfort and peace of mind,’” Blanchette said.

Blanchette sued to get her job back and to collect damages. No details of the settlement were released, but a lawyer for the group, Bennett Klein, said Wednesday, “I can tell you she does not work for the college.”

“As transgender people increasingly seek fair treatment in the work place, employers must educate themselves about their transgender employees and their legal rights. If they do not, they will find themselves met with a swift and strong legal response,” Klein said.

In a letter dated April 14, 2004, the college told Blanchette: “As you know, you recently disclosed to senior college administration your transsexual status. Upon consideration, you are immediately relieved of your duties.”

The college maintained it fired Blanchette for unspecified misconduct, but offered no details. But it also argued that Blanchette failed to exhaust internal remedies before going to court.

Blanchette, an Air Force veteran, is married and has children. She had worked at the school more than six years.

The college also had said the suit was barred by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the constitution, which requires separation of church and state. Additionally, the college said Blanchette was an “employee at will” who could be terminated at any time.

Blanchette wrote computer code and designed and installed computer systems for administrative offices. She had received commendations for her work, according to the lawsuit. Blanchette sought help in 2001, seeing a psychologist and gender specialist. Then Robert Blanchette, he was diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” and began hormone therapy in 2002, the lawsuit said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of February 10, 2006.

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