Best Ohio LGBT Discrimination Attorney Answer: Can I sue my employer for wrongful termination if I was fired today because my employer felt that my gender transition was a “distraction” to other employees? Can I file a lawsuit if I feel that my employer is discriminating against me based on my gender identity? How do I stop my boss from discriminating against me because I am not conforming to traditional gender stereotype dress requirements?
The employment attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm, LLC, are committed to representing individuals who have been fired against based on their gender identity and sexual orientation in the workplace. In addition, our employment discrimination lawyers are constantly seeking to protect the work rights of those in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community who are discriminated against in the workplace. While Ohio and many other states continue to fall behind in enacting statutory protections for LGBT individuals, some employees in the LGBT community have had luck getting protection under Ohio and federal gender discrimination laws by arguing that the discrimination against them was based on their non-conformance to traditional gender stereotypes. (See LGBT Employment Law: Can I Be Fired For Being Too Masculine?; Can I Be Fired Because I’m Gay/Lesbian?; Can I Be Denied A Promotion Because I’m Transgender?; and Law: Can My Job Fire Me Because Of My Sexual Orientation?)
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from discriminating against or harassing any employee because of that worker’s race/color, religion, gender/sex, or national origin. Sexual orientation is not directly recognized as a protected class under Title VII; however, a claim for discrimination based on gender stereotypes can amount to a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII.
An interesting gender discrimination case involving a gender-identity issue can be found in Dawson v. H&H Electric, Inc., out of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. In Dawson, the employee had been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” which is a “medical diagnosis given to individuals whose gender identity–their innate sense of being male of female–differs from the sex they were assigned at birth and who experience distress as a result.”
Patricia Dawson began working for H&H Electric in 2008 when she was known as “Steven” at the time. At the time of her hiring, Dawson presented as a male and she was hired to work as an electrical apprentice. As part of her treatment for gender dysphoria, Dawson began transitioning from male to female, and in June 2012, she changed her legal name to Patricia Yvette Dawson. Initially, Dawson refrained from discussing her transition with anyone at work, and she continued to use the name Steve. However on Friday, June 22, 2012, Dawson informed her direct supervisor, Marcus Holloway that she was transgender, and she showed him her new driver’s license, which bore her new name and a female gender designation.
From there, the accounts by Dawson and the employer differ, however, according to Dawson, Holloway was “stunned” by her announcement and told Dawson not to tell anyone else about her being transgender, and that he “needed the weekend” to decide what to do. In addition, Dawson testified that she was not allowed to use her new legal name, Patricia, in the workplace, was not allowed to wear women’s clothing and could not use the women’s bathroom.
While Dawson initially complied with Holloway’s restrictions, in September 2012, she started wearing women’s clothing to work, including a bra, as well as make-up. For this, Dawson was reprimanded by Holloway. A few days later, Holloway terminated Dawson and told her that she did good work but “was too much of a distraction.” Dawson then filed a Title VII lawsuit against her former employer.
The employer filed for summary judgment arguing that “transsexuals may not claim protection under Title VII solely from discrimination based solely on their status as a transsexual.” The Court quickly noted that, “this argument ignores Dawson’s asserted theory of discrimination—that she was terminated because of her gender transition and her failure to conform to gender stereotypes.” From there, the Court stated that it is well settled that Title VII prohibits discrimination by an employer and prohibits adverse actions “because an employee’s behavior or appearance fails to conform to gender stereotypes.”
The Court then determined that Dawson met her prima facie case for discrimination by showing:
That when she told Holloway about her transgender status, he stated: “You’re one of the best people I have. I’d hate to lose you.” Dawson also offers evidence that Holloway instructed her not to “rock the boat” and that he repeatedly forbade her to use her legal name, talk about her transgender status, or wear feminine clothes at work. Dawson’s evidence further shows that soon after she disobeyed Holloway’s orders and began wearing makeup and feminine attire at work, Holloway terminated her employment and told her that she was too much of a distraction. The Court finds that Dawson has provided ample evidence from which a reasonable juror could find that she was terminated because of her sex.
Then, turning to remaining issue of pretext, the Court again found that Dawson presented sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment. Specifically, the Court reasoned as follows:
Dawson presents evidence that casts serious doubt on Holloway’s testimony. In deposition, Hopkins recalled that he talked to Holloway only once regarding Dawson and that the topic of discussion was that Dawson’s hoop earrings presented a safety concern. Hopkins denied that he told Holloway that Dawson had threatened to sue Remington or that Hopkins suggested that Holloway should remove Dawson from Remington’s job site. Considering this evidence, together with Holloway’s alleged comments evidencing a discriminatory attitude and the close temporal proximity between Dawson’s feminine appearance at work and Holloway’s decision to terminate her employment, the Court finds that Dawson has carried her burden to show that H&H’s proffered reason is merely pretext for sex discrimination.
Based on the findings that Dawson met her prima facie case under Title VII for gender discrimination and had evidence of pretext for her termination, the Court denied summary judgment, allowing the case to proceed forward towards trial.
If you are searching “I need a lawyer because I have was wrongfully fired or terminated today;” or “I have been discriminated against because I am …” gay, a lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered; or even think that you might need an employment law lawyer, then it would be best to call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. Your employment rights are constantly changing and the best way to find out if you can sue your boss, manager, supervisor or employer for discrimination, harassment, or wrongful termination is to call The Spitz Law Firm and talk to its attorneys, who are experienced and dedicated to protecting the rights of employees just like you.
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