Federal Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Sheds Light on Transgender Job Bias

Last Friday was a landmark day for transgender people across the US. In a historic first, the US District Court ruled that a transgender woman had been discriminated against when an employer rescinded a job offer upon learning of her transition.

Judge James Robertson ruled that the Library of Congress had discriminated against Diane Schroer, a transgender woman, on the basis of her sex. In 2004 Diane Schroer was offered a job as a terrorism research analyst with the Library of Congress, but had the offer rescinded when the hiring manager learned of her impending transition. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented Schroer, said Judge James Robertson's ruling is the first to apply Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to transgender people.

"The court got it exactly right, sending a loud and clear message to employers everywhere: if you fire or refused to hire someone for transitioning, you are guilty of sex discrimination and may well find yourself liable," said Sharon McGowan, one of the ACLU LGBT Project staff attorneys who tried the case.

"True to form, Diane Schroer has once again demonstrated her bravery and her commitment to American democracy," noted Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "By fighting for her rights, she has defended the honor and rights of all transgender people who have been discriminated against on the job. NCTE congratulates her on this historic win and applauds the tremendous work of the ACLU in securing this victory for us all."

There's still a great deal of uncertainty about what this could mean, and Judge Robertson has yet to decide what the penalties for the discrimination will be. Despite this, reporters from CNN and ABC have claimed the win as an "important victory", while the New York Times and Ms. Magazine have steered clear from making any statements about future implications.

While  media outlets have been hesitant to make a definitive statement on what the ruling will bring, Schroer has been clear about what she hopes it will accomplish. In a statement from the ACLU, Schroer said she hoped that "employers, family members, friends and co-workers will begin to understand variations in sexual orientation and identity from a basis of knowledge and not fear."

Earlier this June a similar national transgender story - that of the first ever Congressional Hearings on Transgender Workplace Discrimination - received no national coverage and very little local coverage. The accurate and inclusive coverage of this ruling thus far is a pleasant surprise, though few local papers have picked up the news. Hopefully as the details of the case are laid out and the impact becomes less abstract more local media outlets will cover the victory.

You can hear Schroer speak about her life and the trial in this video from the ACLU:

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