Sex Discrimination Complaint Against East Providence School District Settled

December 26, 2000 12:00 am

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PROVIDENCE, R.I.– The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island today announced the settlement of a sex discrimination dispute against the East Providence School District for advertising a position at a high school as being for men only.

“I am very pleased we were able to resolve this matter without the need for protracted litigation,” said Lynette Labinger, an ACLU volunteer attorney. “This agreement will ensure that people are not denied future employment opportunities based on stereotypes.”

In March 1999, Diane Perry, who is a Special Education Classroom Aide, was denied a request for a transfer to work in a special education class at a high school because the school district’s advertisement for the vacancy sought male applicants only.

Ms. Perry filed a sex discrimination complaint with the R.I. Commission for Human Rights.

Earlier this year the Commission found reason to believe that Perry had been discriminated against in violation of state law. Last month, the ACLU agreed to represent her in court to challenge the sex discrimination.

In its defense, the school district argued that it received permission from the teachers’ union to advertise the position as “male only” and that sex was a “Bona Fide Occupational Qualification” for the position because some of the male students in the classroom needed help when going to the bathroom.

However, ACLU volunteer attorney Lynette Labinger, who represented Perry, noted that if privacy issues had to be addressed, there were many more reasonable alternatives available than keeping the classroom aide position off-limits to women. In fact, the classroom aide position had previously been held by a woman.

Labinger also noted that state law requires employers to obtain permission from the Human Rights Commission before limiting any job to one gender.

Under the terms of today’s settlement, the school district agreed not to “advertise, announce, restrict, fill or select any vacancies in the position of Special Education Aide as ‘male’ or limited to one gender” unless it seeks and obtains beforehand a certification from the Commission that sex is a “Bona Fide Occupational Qualification” for the position.

The agreement also requires the school district to provide Perry and the ACLU advance notice before seeking any such certification so that she and the ACLU can raise objections to the proposal.

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