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Transgender man prevails in employment discrimination case brought by SPLC, allies

A transgender man in Louisiana has won a sex discrimination case against a financial services company that he said fired him in 2013 after he refused the company’s demand to dress and be treated as a woman.

An arbitrator in the case ruled last week that the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Tristan Broussard “involuntarily resigned in order to escape an intolerable and illegal employment requirement imposed by the corporate office – that he act and dress only as a female pursuant to [the company’s] personnel policies,” the arbitrator wrote in the Nov. 23 ruling.

The order directs the company to pay Broussard economic damages equaling more than a year’s salary, along with additional monetary damages for emotional distress.

“Transgender people experience extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty due to widespread discrimination in the workplace,” SPLC Senior Policy Counsel Scott McCoy said. “Employers need to understand that there are legal consequences when they fire or harass their employees based on gender identity.”

Courts across the country have repeatedly recognized that Title VII, which prohibits sex discrimination, protects transgender workers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the primary agency responsible for interpreting and enforcing Title VII, has also made clear that employers cannot fire or refuse to hire employees because they are transgender.

Broussard was hired as a manager trainee in the company’s Lake Charles, Louisiana, office. During his first week on the job, he was called into a back office and instructed by a senior company supervisor to sign a document stating that his “preference to act and dress as a male” was not “in compliance” with the company’s personnel policies.

“I am very happy to have this ruling,” Broussard said. “I just wanted to work hard and do my job, and I hope this ruling will allow other employees the chance to do the same.”

Broussard is represented by the SPLC, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Altshuler Berzon LLP, and Delaney, Robb & Rubin.