Signals Commitment By Obama Administration To Protect Transgender Workers From Discrimination
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WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Justice decided not to appeal a federal court ruling awarding transgender veteran Diane Schroer the maximum compensation for the discrimination she suffered after being refused a job with the Library of Congress. The deadline for seeking an appeal was June 30. The American Civil Liberties Union has represented Schroer in her case.
The Obama administration’s decision whether to appeal the final ruling in the case has been closely watched in part because the Bush administration defended the case so vigorously, arguing that transgender Americans are not protected by any existing federal laws. The decision not to appeal the verdict is consistent with the Obama administration’s campaign promises to protect transgender workers against discrimination and his administration’s recent order taking steps to bar gender identity discrimination in federal employment.
“I am grateful that the court took the time to examine the case in detail and come to a fair and unbiased decision. In that same light, I am gratified that the current administration saw this for what it was, a case of sex discrimination focused against transgender people, and recognized that it must end in this country,” said Schroer, an Army Special Forces veteran with 25 years service. “The important signal that the administration’s decision sends to all LGBT individuals gives me renewed hope and restores some of my shaken faith in what our country stands for.”
On April 29, 2009, a federal court awarded Schroer maximum damages of $491,190 for back pay, other financial losses and emotional pain and suffering after finding the Library illegally discriminated against Schroer because of her sex. At trial, Schroer testified that she had applied for a position with the Library of Congress as the senior terrorism research analyst and was offered the job. Prior to starting work, she took her future boss to lunch to explain that she was in the process of transitioning and wished to start work presenting as female. The following day, Schroer received a call from her future boss rescinding the offer, telling her that she wasn’t a “good fit” for the Library of Congress.
“We are pleased and relieved that the Obama administration has decided to bring an end not only to years of hard-fought litigation but also to a painful chapter of Ms. Schroer’s extraordinary life,” said Sharon McGowan, a staff attorney with the ACLU LGBT Project. “The administration’s decision not to challenge this important civil rights ruling is a welcome sign that it intends to live up to its commitment to help end transgender discrimination in the workplace.”
The ACLU filed the lawsuit against the Library of Congress on June 2, 2005, charging that the library unlawfully refused to hire Schroer in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. In an earlier ruling in this case, the court issued a groundbreaking opinion that discriminating against someone who transitions from living as one gender to another is sex discrimination under federal law. In reaching this decision, the court compared the discrimination faced by Schroer to religious-based discrimination, saying, “Imagine that an employee is fired because she converts from Christianity to Judaism. Imagine too that her employer testified that he harbors no bias toward either Christians or Jews but only ‘converts.’ That would be a clear case of discrimination ‘because of religion.’ No court would take seriously the notion that ‘converts’ are not covered by the statute.” The court also ruled that the library was guilty of sex stereotyping against Schroer because of its view that she failed to live up to traditional notions of what is male or female.
“This case put employers on notice that discrimination against transgender individuals is like any other form of discrimination – counterproductive and against our principles as a nation,” added Schroer. “But this case alone won’t end the rampant discrimination that transgender people face throughout the country. That’s why we need Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that was introduced last week.”
In addition to McGowan, the legal team consisted of Ken Choe, Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU LGBT Project, James Esseks, Litigation Director for the ACLU LGBT Project and Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital.
A copy of the decision, the complaint, a video, a bio and photographs of Diane Schroer are available at: