Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Transgender electrician may sue employer over her firing

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2015 at 2:14 PM

PATRICIA DAWSON: May take discrimination case to trial.
  • PATRICIA DAWSON: May take discrimination case to trial.
Federal Judge Susan Webber Wright has ruled that Patricia Dawson, a transgender woman, may pursue her lawsuit that she was wrongfully fired by her employer, H & H Electric, because of her sex.

We've written about Dawson's case before.  The company had asked that the case be dismissed, which Wright refused in this order.

Dawson was fired while working for H & H on a contract at Remington Arms in 2012. She was making a transition from male to female then and said she didn't talk about that, as  her supervisor instructed, but co-workers did. The judge's order recounts different testimony on whether Dawson should use her new name or her old name of Steve on work records and whether she'd worn proper attire to work. Dawson said the supervisor who fired her said she'd become too much off a distraction, though she did good work.

The company argued that federal employment law doesn't protect people from discrimination solely on transsexual status. But the judge wrote: "This argument ignores Dawson’s asserted theory of discrimination—that she was terminated because of her gender transition and her failure to conform to gender stereotypes." The judge said Dawson had presented sufficient facts to justify a trial on that argument.

The judge found, too, a reasonable inference of discrimination, a standard for allowing the claim to go forward. 

Here, Dawson presents evidence that when she told [supervisor] Holloway about her transgender status, he stated: “You’re one of the best people I have. I’d hate to lose you.” Dawson also offers evidence that Holloway instructed her not to “rock the boat” and that he repeatedly forbade her to use her legal name, talk about her transgender status, or
wear feminine clothes at work. Dawson’s evidence further shows that soon after she disobeyed Holloway’s orders and began wearing makeup and feminine attire at work, Holloway terminated her employment and told her that she was too much of a distraction. The Court finds that Dawson has provided ample evidence from which a reasonable juror could find that she was terminated because of her sex

The ACLU is providing representation in the case.

“The court recognized that what Patricia Dawson faced was sex discrimination,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, attorney in the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “We are pleased that Patricia Dawson will be able to have her day in court to correct the injustice of being fired simply because of who she is.”

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