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Transgender Woman Wins Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

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By Robyn Hagan Cain on December 06, 2011 3:16 PM

Just five days after hearing oral arguments in an employment discrimination lawsuit, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that an employer may not discriminate against a transgender employee on the basis of gender non-conformity, reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In a unanimous opinion, the three-judge panel ruled that the Georgia General Assembly's Office of Legislative Counsel (OLC) violated the Equal Protection Clause's prohibition on sex-based discrimination by firing Vandy Beth Glenn after she revealed plans to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Glenn, previously known as Glenn Morrison, was hired as a legislative editor for the OLC in 2005. Earlier that year, after being diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, she had started taking steps to transition from male to female.

Glenn informed her supervisor in 2006 that she was a transsexual in the process of becoming a woman. That year, Sewell Brumby, the head of the OLC, met with Glenn's supervisor, Beth Yinger, to discuss Glenn's gender transition.

After Glenn notified Yinger that she would legally change her name and begin coming to work as a woman, Brumby fired Glenn because her "intended gender transition was inappropriate." Brumby also expressed concerns that some people would see the transition as a moral issue, and would feel uncomfortable about Glenn's transition.

Glenn sued, alleging sex discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

The district court ruled in Vandy Beth Glenn's favor, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, finding that Glenn had provided ample direct evidence that the OLC discriminated on the basis of gender non-conformity, affirmed the decision.

In today's opinion, the court unequivocally concluded, "An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender non-conformity. Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual. The nature of the discrimination is the same; it may differ in degree but not in kind, and discrimination on this basis is a form of sex-based discrimination that is subject to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause."

Help your clients avoid an employment discrimination lawsuit; update them on today's development that federal courts will not tolerate gender non-conformity discrimination.

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