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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 18, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 38
Trans woman wins settlement from employer that fired her
Southern Poverty Law Center wins case
Section One
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Trans woman wins settlement from employer that fired her
Southern Poverty Law Center wins case

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Transgender woman who was insulted and then fired by her new employer has won an undisclosed amount of money and a promise to implement diversity policies.

Jessi Dye reported for work at her new job at Summerford Nursing Home in Vinemont, Ala., on November 26, 2014.

'I was looking forward to my new position and heartbroken when I was fired because of my gender and not my qualifications for the job,' she said in a statement.

According to Dye, she spent her first half day on new employee training and completing appropriate paperwork. She also got vaccinations, which is routine for all the nursing home staff.

Then, halfway through the day, she was called in to the office of Robert Summerford, a senior manager. He questioned Dye about the discrepancy between the gender marker on her driver's license and the way she presented.

He asked her, 'What are you?'

Dye explained that she identified as a woman and was transitioning to her appropriate gender. She says Summerford then asked, 'What am I supposed to do with you?'

He then fired her and ordered her to collect her things and leave the building.

'It was exactly like being punched in the stomach,' she recalled.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a complaint on her behalf with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Dye had to file her complaint with a federal agency because Alabama has no state law protecting Trans people from discrimination.

The EEOC ruled in 2012 that Trans employees were covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, among other things.

When the EEOC receives a complaint, it investigates, and if it finds evidence that the complaint is valid, it will try to negotiate a settlement, which is what happened in Dye's case.

'The nursing home has done the right thing by resolving this case short of federal litigation,' SPLC staff attorney Sam Wolfe said. 'Good jobs are hard to come by in Alabama, and no one should lose her job simply because she is transgender or because of some other aspect of who she is that has no bearing on job performance.'

The SPLC added that the result is significant as it is the first successful employment case brought by a Transgender person against a private employer in Alabama.

'I think the takeaway here is that we have a small company that is represented by competent lawyers, and they saw the writing on the wall,' Wolfe said.

'It's an admission that employers do need to pay attention to their obligations under federal law to not discriminate because of someone's gender identity or sexual orientation.'

'No one should be discriminated against and kept from employment because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,' Dye said. 'I hope by taking a stand about what happened to me, it will help others in the LGBT community realize they have a right to equal treatment.'

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