September 16, 2015

NEW YORK—A U.S. district court judge ruled yesterday that a transgender woman fired because of her gender transition may sue her former employer for sex discrimination under federal law.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas denied H&H Electric’s motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Patricia Dawson, a transgender woman and licensed electrician in Arkansas, who was fired by the company after she transitioned from male to female. Dawson’s gender transition was part of her treatment for gender dysphoria.  

Dawson’s claim asserts that H&H Electric violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by firing her because of her sex and because she was perceived to fail to conform to sex stereotypes. 

“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.”

Dawson was an electrical apprentice at H&H for four years. When she told her boss that she was transgender, she was forced to use her male birth name at work, even though she legally changed her name to Patricia, and was told not to discuss her transition with coworkers.

After Dawson started wearing make-up and more traditionally feminine clothes, she was fired. Her boss told her she did great work, but was “too much of a distraction.”

The case will now proceed to a trial.

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