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You are Here: Home > Blog > Transsexual Wins Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

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Transsexual Wins Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

A male-to-female transsexual recently won what could be a landmark lawsuit against a Federal employer, regarding sex discrimination in hiring.

The plaintiff, Diane Schroer, claimed that the Library of Congress discriminated against her on the basis of sex, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. She further claimed that the Library of Congress denied her employment, because she was transitioning from male to female at the time.

In 2004, Schroer applied for a job as a terrorism specialist with the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress, for which she was highly qualified.

Among her impressive credentials, Schroer had successfully served in the U.S. Special Operations Command as Colonel David J. Schroer. She had a Top-Secret security clearance, and was in charge of 120 personnel involved in tracking and targeting high-threat terrorist organizations worldwide.

At the time she applied for the terrorism-specialist job, Schroer had been diagnosed with gender identity disorder, a psychological condition which, commonly put, made her feel like a woman trapped in man’s body. As part of her treatment, Schroer worked out a medically-acceptable transgender plan with her licensed clinical social worker, to transition in phases from male to female.

But, because Schroer wasn’t yet presenting herself as a woman full time, which was a later phase of the plan, she applied for the job as “David.” Schroer was invited to an interview about two months later, which she attended traditionally dressed as a man in a sport coat, slacks, and a shirt with a tie.

Schroer received the highest interview rating among eighteen job candidates. Subsequently, one of Schroer’s three interviewers, Charlotte Preece, Assistant Director for Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade, later offered the job to Schroer.

Before Schroer started her new job, Preece invited her to lunch before Preece had turned in the new-hire paperwork. Schroer attended the lunch meeting as “David.” But, about a half hour into the meeting, Schroer told Preece that she would be starting the job as “Diane” based on her transgender plan. Preece’s immediate reaction was in the form of the question, “Why in the world would you want to do that?”

Later, after discussing the issue with her colleagues, Preece rescinded her job offer to Schroer. Although Preece respected Schroer’s candidness and courage for revealing her sex transition, Preece was concerned that Schroer wouldn’t be trustworthy because she wasn’t up front about her transgender plan from the start. Preece was also concerned that Schroer’s security clearance as “David” wouldn’t apply to “Diane.”

Additionally, Preece was concerned that Schroer might not be effective in such an important job, because “a man dressed in women’s clothing” might not be taken seriously. One of the job duties where Schroer’s credibility would be of utmost importance, was to testify before Congress about matters of terrorism.

As “Diane,” her new legal name at the time, Schroer sued the Library of Congress in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, for Title VII sex discrimination. After hearing all the evidence, Judge James Robertson concluded that the Library of Congress violated the sex discrimination prohibition under Title VII by gender-stereotyping how men and women should act and appear, and by denying employment on the basis of Schroer’s sex transition.

Judge Robertson might have set a landmark precedent that it’s unlawful for employers to discriminate against transgendered individuals in any aspect of employment, on the basis of sex (gender).

This is just a summarization of the case and reflects only this writer’s opinion. To read Judge Robertson’s opinion, refer to Schroer v. Billington. Consult an attorney for legal advice.

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