Trans at Work – or not.
Admittedly almost every paragraph of this site has been framed in the context of the male-to-female trans women. From the beginning the focus was primarily on crossdressing which is a phenomena not really associated with the trans man. Honestly, even though my writing tends to trend more to full on transsexualism rather than male-identified crossdressers (they say “write what you know” and I suppose that’s what I do), it’s still going to be pretty heavily skewed towards trans women rather than trans men as I simply don’t have the background and experience to speak to their concerns. Other than the general issues like bathroom access that are not exclusive to one side or the other.
But this week’s issue is one of those general application stories which happens to have a trans man at the center of it. Tristan Broussard was hired at Tower Loans in Lake Charles, LA in 2013 while presenting and living as a male. The immediate manager told him there wouldn’t be an issue and by all reports, Bruoussard was considered by the company to be a well liked and productive employee and until his legal ID was needed, no one seemed to even be aware of his transgender status.
Then Broussard was notified that the company VP, David Morgan, wanted to speak with him. He was asked to sign a form acknowledging that his presentation as male while legally female was at odds with their personnel policy and was required to sign a form acknowledging he would be expected to present as female while at work. He refused and was fired. He’s in the news now because he’s filed suit for discrimination.
The ground is shifting rapidly in this area of trans progress. Probably faster than we could have hoped as courts and Federal agencies are actively advancing the principle that discrimination against trans people is a violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights act prohibiting sex based discrimination. Arguably, Glenn v. Brumby (decided by a conservative Circuit Court by the way) was the case that touched off this wave of decisions and suits. The Macy case before the EEOC followed soon after and in the last year or so multiple Federal agencies including State, Labor, Education, and Justice have enacted trans-accepting policies. Justice is involved in a suit in Oklahoma concerning a fired college professor which has similar implications, and there are active suits in three other states.
Still, in most states there are not state level laws, nor are there any federal laws (more authoritative than Department level policies which can change from Administration to Administration) which protect trans people from such discrimination. It’s well known that unemployment and under-employment is insanely high among trans people precisely because there’s nothing to protect them, or was nothing before the last year or so, from being fired or refused employment based on their trans status.
The latter is still a more significant problem since it’s much harder to demonstrate legally that being trans prevented your hiring than it is to show it led to mistreatment on the job or dismissal. But none of these problems have been solved. Morgan was, frankly, ham-fisted in his efforts – in most cases the company would have laid-low until they could come up with a dishonest reason to fire Broussard and left him with a much more difficult case to prove. It’s that sort of deviousness that we usually encounter and why relying on the recent progress, as significant as it is, is insufficient. I applaud Tristan for seeking legal aid and going after Tower Loans and urge any reader of this column, should they be similarly mistreated, to likewise be bold enough to speak out and force change.
Photo by: Casey Bisson