by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
A Transgender woman has received $115,000 from a former employer who prevented her from using the appropriate restroom after a federal civil rights agency ruled in her favor.
Britney Austin went to work for the Deluxe Corporation, a financial services company, in their Phoenix, Ariz., branch office in 2007. In 2011 she began to transition to her female gender identity.
During her transition, she was denied the right to use the women's restrooms at work and was also subjected to hurtful comments from colleagues, she charged. Some co-workers also continued to use male pronouns when referring to her.
Her employer also failed to change Austin's name and sex on company records, saying it would only do so if she underwent sex reassignment surgery. However, their health insurance package denied her request for transition-related medical services.
Austin's stint at Deluxe came to an end in July 2011 when the company closed its Phoenix offices, resulting in several job losses.
Austin filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which found in her favor. Her employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting Austin to a hostile work environment and disparate treatment because of her sex, EEOC said.
'A long-term, well-respected employee should not be rewarded for her years of dedicated service by being forced to face the indignity and danger of using a restroom inconsistent with her gender identity, simply because a company's management subscribes to sex stereotypes and believes co-workers may feel uncomfortable,' Rayford O. Irvin, district director for the EEOC's Phoenix district office said in a June 2015 ruling.
After the EEOC decision upholding her claim, Austin's attorneys and Deluxe agreed on the $115,000 sum, including $2,254.40 in back pay, $72,783 in damages, and $39,962 in attorney's fees and expenses.
'This settlement sends a strong message,' Austin's attorney, Jillian Weiss, said. 'No one should face harassment and bias in the workplace, simply for being transgender.
'We applaud our client, Ms. Austin, for having the courage to speak out, take action, and bring change.'
'Transgender people should never face the bias I endured in the workplace,' Austin said in a statement. 'We should be able to earn a living and provide for our families without fear of discrimination for being who we are.
'I am so relieved to come to this settlement with my former employer, put this case behind me, and move on with my life. I hope by standing up for my rights I will help improve the workplace for other transgender employees in the future.'
In a long statement responding to the ruling, a spokesperson for Deluxe said the corporation was 'pleased' to have resolved the lawsuit and would no longer discriminate against its Trans employees.
'Like others, Deluxe Corporation's policies and practices have evolved over time,' the company said.
'Even before this settlement was reached, Deluxe ensured that transgender employees are permitted to use the restroom of their choice, while also ensuring that its national health plan did not contain blanket exclusions that impact transgender employees.
'Deluxe will continue to lead in the areas of diversity, inclusion, dignity, and equal employment for all employees, including transgender employees.'
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