Utah Transgender Woman Takes Action Against Workplace Discrimination After Losing Job

20090819__jobbias_0820~2_GALLERYAccording to The Salt Lake Tribune, a transgender woman in Utah held a community forum last night about workplace discrimination after she was fired because of her gender identity.

Candice Metzler worked for a small home-inspection enterprise in Salt Lake City and when she transitioned to her true self her boss was initially supportive. Three months later, however, she was fired after clients started cutting ties with the company.

Metzler then struggled to find another job, applying to positions in the construction industry, and repeatedly being turned down. She eventually lost her home and lived on the streets for nearly a year, until she finally got a job as a receptionist.

Utah laws do not protect LGBT people from workplace discrimination and Metzler is not alone in her experience.

In 2007 a transgender bus driver was fired from the Utah Transit Authority because she asked to use the women’s restroom.

A gay man was fired from a Utah credit-union job earlier this year after he asked whether or not his employer offered benefits for domestic partners.

Legislators in Utah as well as the U.S. Congress have been working to pass anti-discrimination laws. A measure which would have protected LGBT people from discrimination in employment and housing was dismissed from the Utah legislature, but is expected to return in 2010. A similar bill is set to be presented to the Salt Lake City Council in September by Mayor Ralph Becker.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate, The Advocate reports. ENDA would provide federal protections against discrimination in the workplace based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. A version of the bill that excluded protections for transgender people made its way through the House but failed to make it through the Senate in 2008.

If legislation like this had been in place, Meltzer’s home inspection job would have been protected.  Her Wednesday forum at the Salt Lake Public Library attracted speakers from the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Utah, Salt Lake City Human Rights Commission, as well as State Representative Christine Johnson (D- Salt Lake) and Troy Justeen, a former Department of Justice civil rights official.

An organization called TJobBank has provided a job list made up of employers who are inclusive of transgender people. Until federal non-discrimination legislation is passed, this is one of the best tools for transgender people looking for an accepting job environment.

Meltzer has since returned to school, and plans to get her master’s degree in social work. She eventually wants to work with homeless LGBT youth.

GLAAD applauds Candice Metzler’s courage for taking action on an important issue effecting transgender people across the country. We will continue to watch this issue and bring you coverage on any developments.

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