Court Recognizes Viability of Lambda Legal???s Sex Discrimination Claim on Behalf of Transgender Woman; Case Proceeds to Trial
(Houston, Texas, April 4, 2008) — The District Court for the Southern District of Texas today denied motions for summary judgment from both sides in the case of a transgender woman who found her job offer from a Houston medical clinic withdrawn after a background check disclosed her sex as male.
Both Lambda Legal, representing 27-year-old Izza Lopez, and attorneys for River Oaks Imaging and Diagnostic had asked the judge for summary judgment, a ruling issued without trial based on undisputed facts. The court's denial of summary judgment means the case will proceed first to mediation, and if no resolution is reached, then to trial.
"Neither we nor attorneys for River Oaks dispute the basic facts in the case, which we feel strongly support Izza's claims, so we're disappointed the court denied our motion for partial summary judgment," said Cole Thaler, Lambda Legal Transgender Rights Attorney. "But we're very pleased at the points the court made in reaching its decision. This court followed the lead of other courts by ruling that transgender employees may advance sex-stereotyping claims. The court agreed that Izza never misrepresented herself in any sense, and rejected River Oaks' claim that transgender people have a duty to disclose their biological sex to employers."
In her 31-page decision, Judge Nancy Atlas wrote, "Lopez has presented ample evidence...to show that her conduct did not constitute the "misrepresentation" the company claims. Although Lopez listed only her adopted name on her resume, she listed both her adopted and legal names on her job application. In addition, Lopez listed "Raul Lopez" as her "Full Name"and "Izza Lopez" as an"Other Name Used" on her background check forms." The court also rejected River Oaks' claim that "any person who dresses in a manner inconsistent with traditional gender stereotypes is necessarily deceptive.
In September 2005, Lopez applied for the position of scheduler with River Oaks Imaging and Diagnostic, a medical imaging company in Houston. Lopez sent in her resume, was invited in for an interview, completed a background check and drug test, and on October 4, 2005, she was asked to start work as soon as possible. On October 10, however, Lopez received a phone call from River Oaks' human resources director and one of its employment recruiters saying that River Oaks was rescinding its offer of employment because of her "misrepresentation" of herself as a woman. Lopez was unable to get her previous job back and was without employment for several months.
Lambda Legal filed Lopez v. River Oaks in the Southern District of Texas in the Fifth Circuit of the federal court system. The lawsuit charges that River Oaks violated Lopez's rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment.
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