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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 9, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 49
Legal victory for Trans employee fired by Georgia legislature
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Legal victory for Trans employee fired by Georgia legislature

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

An 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel has unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that the Georgia General Assembly discriminated against Vandy Beth Glenn when it fired her after she told her supervisor that she planned to transition from male to female.

The decision was announced on December 6.

Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Rosemary Barkett said that gender nonconformity is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

'An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender-nonconformity,' Barkett wrote.

'Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual. & A person is defined as Transgender precisely because of the perception that his or her behavior transgresses gender stereotypes.

'We conclude that a government agent violates the Equal Protection Clause's prohibition on sex-based discrimination when he or she fires a Transgender or Transsexual employee because of his or her gender non-conformity.'

Glenn worked for two years in the General Assembly's Office of legislative counsel as an editor and proofreader of bill language.

She loved her job, she says, but living as a male was increasingly painful and distressing for her, since she had a longstanding identification as a woman. Glenn's health care providers diagnosed her with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and agreed that gender transition was necessary for her health and well-being.

In 2007, Glenn informed her immediate supervisor, Beth Yinger, that she planned to proceed with her transition from male to female, and showed Yinger photographs of herself in professional female attire.

Yinger passed the information on to her boss, the General Assembly's Legislative Counsel, Sewell Brumby. After confirming that Glenn intended to transition, Brumby fired her.

Brumby conceded in court papers that Glenn's 'intended feminine appearance' contributed to the termination.

Lambda Legal filed suit on Glenn's behalf in July 2008, claiming that the termination violated the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. Glenn was singled out, they said, due to her nonconformity with sex stereotypes and her medical condition.

In July 2010, the District Court ruled that Georgia General Assembly officials violated the Constitution and discriminated against Glenn by terminating her for failing to conform to sex stereotypes. However, the District Court rejected the second Equal Protection claim that Glenn was discriminated against on the basis of her medical condition.

The state appealed the case to the 11th Circuit, and argument was heard on December 1 and decided on December 6.

'The court could not have been more clear: It is unfair and illegal to fire Transgender employees because their appearance or behavior transgress gender stereotypes,' said Greg Nevins, supervising senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta.

'Employers should take note of this important ruling.'

'The law is on our side, but everyone shouldn't need a lawyer to help them fight workplace discrimination. Congress must pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) because we still need a federal law to tell employers unequivocally that discrimination against LGBT employees in the workplace is illegal,' Nevins added.

'We are proud of Vandy Beth for standing up for her rights - her courage has helped clear the path for others.'

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