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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 17, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 16
Trans man sues employer for violating his civil rights - He was ordered to dress as a woman, he charges
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Trans man sues employer for violating his civil rights - He was ordered to dress as a woman, he charges

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Transgender man is suing his former employer for violating his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Tristan Broussard says he was ordered by Tower Loan company to dress as a woman, and then fired when he refused to sign a statement promising to do so. Broussard is represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights in the suit filed April 13.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act forbids employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The U.S. Department of Justice has ruled that the word 'sex' in Title VII also protects gender identity and expression.

According to court documents, Broussard was hired by Tower Loan in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 2013. He was promised a wage of $15 per hour, and when he went home he told his girlfriend she could quit her job because he would be making enough to support both of them.

When his immediate supervisor noticed that the gender marker on his ID identified him as 'female' he informed her that he is Transgender. She assured him that his gender identity was not an issue and that he could expect to work at Tower Loan free from hostile judgments.

Nevertheless, after only one week on the job, Broussard was called into company Vice President David Morgan's office and informed that his gender expression was not 'in compliance with Tower Loan's personnel policies.'

The company executive then asked Broussard to sign the following statement:

'I understand that my preference to act and dress as a male, despite having been born a female, is not something that will be in compliance with Tower Loan's personnel policies.

'I have been advised as to the proper dress for females and have been provided a copy of the female dress code. I also understand that when meetings occur that require out of town travel and an overnight room is required, I will in assigned to a room with a female.'

When he refused to sign, he was fired. According to the lawsuit Morgan told him that if 'he 'had some surgeries and we can see some results,' then Tower Loan may consider hiring him again.'

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Broussard said he got 'emotional' when Morgan showed him the company dress code. It made him recall his senior year of high school, he said, when he was ordered to wear a white dress for his Catholic confirmation.

Although by that time Broussard identified as a man, he could not begin his transition until he was 18, when he would no longer need parental consent for hormone therapy.

He had never faced discrimination in the workplace, Brossard added, until he was hired and then fired by Tower Loan. Broussard was subsequently unemployed for a month, before finding a job as a pizza delivery driver at a substantially reduced salary.

In August 2013 Brossard filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission). More than a year later, the EEOC determined that Broussard had indeed been 'subjected to discrimination.'

The commission then invited both Broussard and Tower Loan to find a resolution but in January 2015 informed Broussard's attorneys that it had failed to reach a settlement. The EEOC declined to sue, however, prompting Broussard to file his own lawsuit.

Broussard is seeking a declaratory judgment from a federal court that Tower Loan violated his civil rights, as well as back pay and compensation for legal fees.

'It takes one person at a time to step up and say this isn't right,' Brossard told BuzzFeed. 'It doesn't matter how you're dressed and presenting yourself - that has nothing to do with your work.

'Hopefully, we can figure out the law and stop things like this from happening.'

Southern Poverty Law Center staff attorney Sam Wolfe said the kind of discrimination Brossard experienced was actually widespread.

'We have a young man who is finally able to get a job - a job that held so much promise for him to have financial security - and the employer turns around and fires him, and we know this type of discrimination is terribly widespread,' Wolfe said.

'Transgender people are due a fair chance at employment like anyone else. But the transgender community faces unacceptably high rates of unemployment and poverty due to widespread workplace discrimination.'

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