Eleventh Circuit Upholds Victory for Transgender Employee Fired by Georgia Legislature
(Atlanta, GA, December 6, 2011) — Today the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that the Georgia General Assembly discriminated against Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who was fired from her job as Legislative Editor after she told her supervisor that she planned to transition from male to female.
Judge Rosemary Barkett writing for the unanimous three-judge panel, which included Judge William Pryor and Senior Judge Phyllis Kravitch, said, “An individual cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender-nonconformity. Because these protections are afforded to everyone, they cannot be denied to a transgender individual. . . . A person is defined as transgender precisely because of the perception that his or her behavior transgresses gender stereotypes.”
The decision goes on to read: “We conclude that a government agent violates the Equal Protection Clause’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination when he or she fires a transgender or transsexual employee because of his or her gender non-conformity.”
"The court could not have been more clear: It is unfair and illegal to fire a transgender employees because their appearance or behavior transgress gender stereotypes,” said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta. “Employers should take note of this important ruling.”
"The law is on our side, but everyone shouldn’t need a lawyer to help them fight workplace discrimination. Congress must pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) because we still need a federal law to tell employers unequivocally that discrimination against LGBT employees in the workplace is illegal. We are proud of Vandy Beth for standing up for her rights—her courage has helped clear the path for others," added Nevins.
Glenn worked for two years in the General Assembly's Office of Legislative Counsel as an editor and proofreader of bill language. She loved her job, but living as a male was increasingly painful and distressing for Glenn, who has a longstanding female gender identity. Glenn's health care providers diagnosed her with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and agreed that gender transition was necessary for her health and well-being. In 2007, Glenn informed her immediate supervisor, Beth Yinger, that she planned to proceed with her transition from male to female, and showed Yinger photographs of herself in professional female attire. Yinger passed the information on to her boss, the General Assembly's Legislative Counsel, Sewell Brumby. After confirming that Glenn intended to transition, Brumby fired her. Brumby conceded in court papers that Vandy Beth's "intended feminine appearance" contributed to Glenn's termination.
Lambda Legal's lawsuit, filed in July 2008, claimed that Glenn's termination violated the Constitution's Equal Protection guarantee because it treated her differently due to her nonconformity with sex stereotypes and her medical condition. In July 2010, the District Court ruled that Georgia General Assembly officials violated the Constitution and discriminated against Glenn by terminating her for failing to conform to sex stereotypes. Using a lower standard of review, the Court rejected the second Equal Protection claim that Glenn was discriminated against on the basis of her medical condition. The state appealed the case to the Eleventh Circuit and argument was heard on December 1, 2011 resulting in today’s decision.
"Although the past four years have been both uplifting and frustrating, I have remained optimistic that we'd prevail—and certainly a 3-0 decision from a federal appeals court is quite a compelling statement about the discrimination I endured," said Lambda Legal client Vandy Beth Glenn. "I'm extremely grateful to everyone at Lambda Legal and I hope this decision means no one else will have to go through what I did. I'm very happy!"
Watch video of Vandy Beth Glenn:
Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta is handling the case, with assistance from Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Attorney.
The case is Glenn v. Brumby.
Lambda Legal Contact: Lisa Hardaway O: 212-809-8585; E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.