by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
A Transgender police officer in Middletown, Connecticut, has filed a complaint against her department, alleging that she has had to contend with a hostile work environment since transitioning to female.
Officer Francesca Quaranta's complaint was filed this week with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
In anti-discrimination law, a 'hostile work environment' is one where the employee experiences harassment and fears going to work because of an offensive, intimidating, or oppressive atmosphere - not merely because of teasing or isolated incidents.
Quaranta, who transitioned two years ago, has been on a leave of absence from her job since August.
A SECRET REVEALED
She was hired by Middletown in 2004 after spending eight years as a police officer in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. Until last year she had told only a few close friends - including a few in the Middletown Police Department - that she identifies as a woman instead of a man.
'For seven and a half years, they knew nothing,' she said, but once she started to transition openly, things changed quickly. 'That's pretty much when everything started.'
Quaranta got married at 25, and though the marriage did not last, she said she and her former wife remain 'best friends but separated.' She has a son, and only after coming out to him when he was 16 did she feel as if she could reveal her gender identity to everyone else, she said.
'That put it all together,' she said. 'If he knew and he didn't care and was actually encouraging and excited about it, then I knew it would all just work.'
Until that time, Quaranta said, her life was stressful and complicated.
'You're just not the person you want to be,' she said. 'You're stuck. You're stuck in a world that only knows you that one way.'
According to Quaranta, the Middletown police department seemed initially supportive of her transition, but her work environment gradually deteriorated until it reached a point where she felt she was a target of discrimination and harassment.
Since she began living as a woman, Quaranta says she has been regularly reprimanded and written up by her superiors over her appearance - including her wig, nail polish color, and earrings.
Despite her being told she was violating department regulations, her female co-workers were not subjected to the same standards, she said in her complaint. She also said she felt threatened simply being in the department offices.
'I was not safe in their building emotionally, professionally, or physically until they resolve the issue,' Quaranta said. 'I'm asking them professionally to leave me alone unless I do something wrong.'
City officials have denied discriminating against Quaranta and have initiated an internal investigation, but have not yet formally responded to her complaint.
Josephine Miller, an attorney who is representing Quaranta, said, 'The prudent thing for them to do would be to complete the [internal] investigation. We would like to have her back at work as soon as possible.'
MAYOR: WE'RE SENSITIVE
Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew said that since Quaranta came out as Transgender, the police department has undergone sensitivity training and sexual harassment training.
'The standards Officer Quaranta was held to were the standards every officer is held to,' Drew said. 'We've made it clear to Officer Quaranta on multiple occasions we believe in her and would like her to continue with the department.'
Quaranta disagrees with the mayor's characterization. City officials have lied to her, she said.
'Everything they said, they've never held to,' she said. 'I have no faith in their word. I don't trust them with anything.'
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