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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Court Allows TG Job Bias Case to Move Forward

[CLEVELAND, OH] - A federal judge ruled November 9 that a Cleveland transgender woman can sue a former employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is believed to be the first time a court has allowed a transgendered person to sue for employment discrimination on the basis of sexual stereotype non-comformity.

The case was brought by a Cleveland woman against United Consumer Financial Services in January 2001, after she was fired as a temporary employee in July 2000 when United officials questioned her gender and demanded medical records.

United finances consumer purchases of Scott Fetzer products, including Kirby sweepers and World Book encyclopedias.

The case was filed in federal court in Cleveland by attorney Randi Barnabee of Macedonia as a "Jane Doe" case in order to protect the woman's interests in another discrimination suit against Cuyahoga County. There, the woman is alleging discrimination following 15 years of employment as a supervisor. It was because of the county's termination that the woman, then age 58, sought temporary to permanent employment with United through the Reserve Network agency.

The woman alleged that on July 10, 2000, following ten days on the job, collections manager Brian Davis summoned her to the office of United vice president William Ciszozon. Also present was personnel manager Debbie Woodworth.

During that meeting, it was explained to her that the personnel department was having difficulty verifying her high school records. The woman graduated in 1960 with a male name. In 1973, she legally changed her name to a female name when she began to transition. United does not normally require school records as part of their pre-employment procedures.

At the meeting Ciszozon asked the employee if she was a man dressed as a woman, and what her gender was because, "by looking at [her], [Ciszozon] can't tell." Ciszozon also wanted to know if the woman had an operation. When the woman protested the line of questioning, she was told that an employee had complained that "a man dressed as a woman was using the ladies restroom."

The next day, Woodworth told the Reserve Network that the woman's services were no longer needed.

Reserve Network case notes show that on July 7, a representative visited United to check on the placement, and was asked by Woodworth if she noticed anything peculiar about the employee.

Then, Woodworth told the representative, "employees here have named her Mrs. Doubtfire . . . but they don't say it to her face."

The November 9 decision by Judge Kathleen McDonald O'Malley was a ruling on United's attempt to have the entire case dismissed.

Cleveland attorney Lee Hutton, representing United, argued that all federal courts have held that Title VII cannot protect transsexuals, because in a 1984 case, Ulane v. Eastern Airlines, it was found that Congress had a narrow definition of "sex" in mind when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed.

However, in 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins the act covers a person iscriminated against for not conforming to the gender stereotype behavior expected by another person or social norms. But O'Malley found that a 2000 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court put the later decision first.

"Ulane has been overtaken by the 'logic and language of Price Waterhouse' and that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on 'sexual identity,' not just based on biological sex," wrote O'Malley.

O'Malley will allow the woman to continue to press her claims of slander and intrusion. But she granted United's motion to dismiss the complaints filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim under Ohio law.

Hutton did not return calls for comment on this report. Barnabee said that since this is the first time a judge has allowed a transgender discrimination case like this to go forward, "it may have taken him by surprise."

Barnabee, who is herself transgender, said if the case does not get settled, she expects discovery to begin soon, and for a trial to be scheduled by summer.

Eric Resnick
Gay People's Chronicle
P.O. Box 5426
Cleveland Ohio 44101

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