A transgender man who had a “male-only” job at a drug treatment facility overseeing male patients giving urine samples is suing to be reinstated after he was fired following his trans identity being discovered.
According to The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), who are representing the man in court, this is a landmark case where trans rights and gender-related job qualifications are concerned.
From the TLDEF press release:
In June 2010, defendant Urban Treatment Associates LLC (“Urban Treatment,” based in Camden, New Jersey) hired plaintiff El’Jai Devoureau as a urine monitor for men. His job responsibilities included monitoring male outpatients as they provided urine samples for drug testing. On his second day of work, Urban Treatment was told that Mr. Devoureau had transitioned from female to male and fired him on the spot.
The lawsuit challenges Urban Treatment’s termination of Mr. Devoureau as a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, which protects transgender people from employment discrimination. In filings[.pdf] before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, Urban Treatment claimed Mr. Devoureau was not male and therefore not qualified for the job.
“This lawsuit challenges the discriminatory view that transgender men cannot work as men,” said TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman. “El’Jai was qualified for the job and he performed it without complaint or incident,” he added. “What matters in the workplace is how you do your job, not who you are.”
Transgender people face tremendous discrimination in the workplace. Forty-seven percent of transgender people report being fired, or denied a job or promotion, just because of who they are. “I needed this job to support myself and my family. In this economy, jobs are really hard to find,” said Mr. Devoureau. “They were happy to have me work there until they heard about my transition. I’m a hard worker and it’s unfair that I was fired over something that has nothing to do with how well I did the job,” added Mr. Devoureau.
The New York Times notes that Mr. Devoureau underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2006 and his birth certificate, driver’s license, and Social Security records all show that he is male.
As touched on above, trans people continue to suffer widespread workplace discrimination. It is still legal in 38 states to fire someone solely on the basis of their gender identity.
The trans-inclusive federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in the U.S. House last week by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Given the Republican majority in the House, the legislation is unlikely to move over the next two years. However, advocates remain hopeful that, despite an initial low number of cosponsors, they will be able to convince a greater number of legislators to support the bill and build on the bipartisan support the legislation already enjoys so that when there is once again a Democratic majority in the House, the legislation will be in a strong position for action. Read more on that here.