Transgender Federal Employee Wins Discrimination Case

Tamara Lusardi was working in the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (“AMRDEC”) in Redstone, Ala., when she transitioned from male to female in 2010. According to a report released by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the Army improperly restricted her restroom usage, referred to her with male pronouns and by her birth name and stopped giving her work at that time.

In a landmark ruling issued on April 1, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that some forms of workplace harassment most frequently endured by people who are transgender — including bathroom bans and intentional misgendering by supervisors — are a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex.

In 2012 Lusardi and the California-based Transgender Law Center filed a complaint to the OSC, a federal investigative and prosecutorial agency, which began investigating the case based on the treatment she received during and after her transition. The EEOC decision stated that in addition the disparate treatment violation of Title VII, the Army also was guilty of harassment, subjecting her to a “hostile work environment based on sex” due to the restroom restrictions and by allowing the misgendering to continue “well after [the supervisor] was aware that [Lusardi]’s gender identity was female.”

The ruling echoed an earlier verdict by the OSC that labeled actions taken against Lusardi as violating a federal law “which prohibits discrimination based on conduct that does not adversely affect job performance.”

The EEOC verdict requires the Army to investigate the amount of compensatory damages owed to Lusardi and come up with a figure within 120 days. It also mandates various equal-opportunity training programs for workers at Redstone’s Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, recommends the Army consider discipline for two of Lusardi’s unnamed supervisors, and requires Lusardi be granted “equal and full access to the common female facilities” immediately.

In July, President Obama signed an executive order banning workplace discrimination against millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees of federal contractors and the federal government. The executive order prohibits firing or harassment of federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and it bans discrimination against transgender employees of the federal government.

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