Judge Awards Nearly $500K in Transgender Job Discrimination Case

April 30, 2009 05:03 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Retired Col. Diane Schroer has been awarded almost a half million dollars for losing a job offer after admitting plans for gender change surgery.

Schroer’s Justice a Long Time Coming

Schroer's hearing to determine whether sex discrimination had led to a lost job offer at the Library of Congress began last August. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Robinson ruled that Schroer was entitled to $491,190 in lost pay and damages due to discrimination, according to NPR.

Schroer expressed gratitude that Judge Robinson had validated her poor treatment by the national library. Transgendered people "are hugely underemployed, at best," Schroer told NPR. And even if hired, transgendered employees must often work "well below their capabilities," she explained.

In their defense, the Library of Congress and Justice Department claimed that the Civil Rights Act did not outlaw discrimination against transsexuality. A spokesman for the Justice Department told NPR an appeal was pending. 

In a press release, Schroer said, "Today's decision restores my faith in our democracy. The court understood the senseless harm that is caused by discrimination, and that gives me hope that others will also," reported The Advocate.

Schroer's case illustrates the progress and change that have been occurring for the transgender community, a topic of discussion in the Denver Post. Increased tolerance, media exposure and the ability to connect with other transgendered people on the Internet has led this generation of transgendered people to make changes sooner than previous generations did, "despite fear," the Denver Post reported.

Clinical social worker Karen Scarpella works with and treats transgendered people who are transitioning, and told the Denver Post she's seen the average age of her patients fall by 20 years.

Background: Schroer's case

Schroer's case began on June 2, 2005 when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit on her behalf against the Library of Congress. Last September, in what the ACLU called a "groundbreaking decision," a federal court ruled that discrimination against those in gender transition is a form of sex discrimination "under federal law." Furthermore, the court found the national library "guilty of sex stereotyping" for assuming Schroer would not have traditionally female characteristics.

Tuesday's hearing was for the court to award damages in the case.

Schroer served in the Army for 25 years, was an Airborne Ranger and led a classified national security operation. After being hired as a senior terrorism research analyst with the national library, Schroer discussed with a supervisor professional treatment for gender dysphoria, the medical term for having transgender feelings.

The attorney for the Library of Congress, Jeffrey Taylor, claimed there were other reasons for the revoked job offer. Schroer would have had to pass an exhaustive security clearance, might not have been able to maintain her high-level military intelligence connections; and might not have been considered a credible researcher by Congress.

Related Topic: Transgender strides

Last year featured another notable court decision in favor of a transgendered person, as well as an increased presence of transgendered people in the entertainment world.

In October 2008, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that a transgender political candidate did not deceive voters or skew election results by presenting herself as female. The ruling in favor of transgender politician Michelle Bruce stemmed from a lawsuit brought by two of her opponents for a Riverdale city council seat, who alleged that by presenting herself as female, Bruce was defrauding voters. It was the first known case of a politician being sued for lying to the public about being transgender.

Last September, findingDulcinea discussed that reality TV shows had begun featuring more transgender actors, leading to a wider exposure of an often misunderstood minority. Transgender contestants appeared on both "America's Next Top Model" and the show "I Want to Work for Diddy." On "I Want to Work for Diddy," an eliminated contestant named Laverne Cox forced some of the other characters to get over their prejudices.

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