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Innovative settlement in Transgender discrimination case
Innovative settlement in Transgender discrimination case
by Mike Andrew - SGN Contributing Writer

An innovative settlement in a discrimination complaint involving a Transgender man and his former employer will result in a new internship program at Equal Rights Washington. ERW and the Seattle law firm of Frank Freed Subit & Thomas LLP announced the settlement on December 12.

Ramsey Campbell was fired from his position at Online Coffee Company in March, after revealing that he is Transgender. He then filed a discrimination complaint with the state Human Rights Commission. Since the Anderson-Murray Civil Rights Bill went into effect in June 2006, it has been illegal to discriminate in employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

Campbell's attorney and his former employers were able to reach a prompt and mutually agreeable resolution. Online Coffee pledged to review and improve its employee policies, provide training for its managers, and expand employee understanding of Transgender individuals. It will also fund an internship for Campbell at ERW promoting LGBT civil rights.

Campbell was represented by Beth Barrett Bloom, a partner in Frank Freed Subit & Thomas. "Discrimination in the workplace is an unfortunate fact of life for many Transgender people, especially for those early in transition," she said. "We hope this case will encourage other employers to take proactive steps, as Online Coffee Company has done, to ensure a positive workplace for Transgender employees."

The unique settlement was proposed by Campbell and his attorney, according to ERW Executive Director Connie Watts. "We are extremely impressed that a local law firm would consider resolutions that not only help the individual wronged in the matter, but also advance the very work that helps our entire society avoid such situations," she said.

"They came to us, we didn't go to them," Watts told SGN. "It was a win-win for everyone, including Online Coffee Company. I think Online definitely wants to make good to the community."

Campbell has already attended an ERW staff retreat. "He will be working on a variety of things," ERW Advocacy Director Josh Friedes told SGN, "including Equality Day, Transgender rights issues, our field program, and research as we go into the legislative session."

Named for its original sponsor the late State Rep. Cal Anderson, and its longtime champion State Sen. Ed Murray (D-43), the Anderson-Murray Bill forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in the areas of employment, public accommodations, credit, insurance, and real estate transactions. It was signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire in February 2006 and took effect in June of that year.

The state Human Rights Commission is charged with investigating complaints of discrimination and seeking conciliation between the parties. If conciliation fails, they will then refer the case to the state Attorney General's office for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.

Frank Freed Subit & Thomas is a law firm specializing in civil rights, employment, and labor law. Their website describes them as "the largest law firm in Washington whose primary practice area is representing individuals in employment disputes." In addition to individuals, their clients have included Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Locals 587, 1576, and 883, Office & Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 8, and the United Employees Benefit Trust. In 2000 they represented ATU 587 in a state Supreme Court case striking down controversial Tim Eyman Initiative 695, the car tab initiative which threatened to de-fund local and county transportation services.

Beth Bloom joined the firm in 2005 and became a partner this year. Before entering private practice, she worked for a number of public interest organizations including the ACLU of Washington and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. She has also volunteered with the Northwest Women's Law Center and the Washington State Bar Association. She lives in Seattle with her partner and their son Eli.

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