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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Coalition Helps Transgendered Corrections Officer Return To Work

The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), Pride at Work, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) declared victory in getting a Pennsylvania corrections officer beginning a gender change, reinstated to her job.

"Nancy Stevens" (not her real name), a 17-year veteran Corrections Officer at Carbon County Prison in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, was suspended after beginning her transition from male to female. In a first step, she obtained a legal name change through her local court. She had not yet begun to appear at work as a woman.

When advised of her new name, however, prison officials dismissed her with pay pending evaluation of her continued employment. Stevens was denied permission to attend a meeting of county officials and lawyers of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters called to determine her fate.

James McGregor Halleman, a member of the NTAC Board of Directors, provided Stevens with information and assistance at the local level. Determining that the Teamsters union local is located in Allentown, he armed Stevens with a copy of Allentown's transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. Halleman was involved in last year's effort to pass the Allentown ordinance.

Halleman then involved Marta Ames, Executive Director of Pride At Work, the LGBT constituency group of AFL-CIO, and Shannon Minter, Legal Director for NCLR in the effort.

Ames wrote the county a letter of support, providing education about transgender issues. Meanwhile, Minter and Halleman discussed the legal strategy of approaching the local union.

Following the lead of the AFL-CIO's transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination policy announced in February, the president of Allentown-based Teamsters Union local 773 supported Stevens' right to transition and to work free from discrimination. Halleman described the union president as "very progressive," even receptive to having Ames and Halleman conduct some sensitivity training to "educate the workers."

"As an organization committed to the issues of LGBT workers and union members, we're pleased with the handling this situation," said Ames of Pride at Work. "Nancy's local union defended her interests and her right to keep her job during and after transition."

Following a meeting on May 13, the county advised Stevens that she was reinstated and that she could return to work in her new gender identity on May 22.

NTAC's Halleman was himself the subject of a transgender discrimination controversy last year that was resolved with the support of Pride at Work and attorney Shannon Minter. "This victory was a collaborative effort using education and outreach and building a coalition of transgender advocates," he said.

However, Halleman was quick to add that "Nancy was the brave one."

"There are co-workers that don't ever want me to come back," Stevens admitted, even though she remains optimistic. "Time shall tell."

"Nancy's history as a valued employee, co-worker, and union member helped solidify the support she received," Pride at Work's Ames added. "We were happy to offer our support, and even happier that it was not really needed!"

"James [Halleman] and Pride at Work did some work to help guide my union on some legal issues on my behalf," Stevens said. She also thanked the coalition, including NTAC, Pride at Work, and her local union for their assistance. "I shall be thinking of everyone that helped me. Thank you all so much!"

Although the incident occurred a county away, this may have been the first victory for Allentown's nondiscrimination law.

NTAC works to enact and see effective application of transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws at all levels, and is pleased to have Ms. Stevens back on the job.

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Founded in 1999, NTAC - the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition - is a 501(c)(4) civil rights organization working to establish and maintain the right of all transgendered, intersexed, and gender-variant people to live and work without fear of violence or discrimination.

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