Human Resources News & Insights

A first: Transgender sex bias case settled for $150K

A health clinic in Florida has the dubious distinction of becoming the first employer to settle an EEOC claim of sex discrimination against a transgender employee.  

Lakeland Eye Clinic will pay $150,000 to settle one of the first two such lawsuits filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced. A second, against Detroit-based R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, remains unresolved.

The Lakeland case involved the clinic’s director of hearing services, identified as Brandi Branson in a Miami Herald story.

At the time of her hiring, the Globe said, Branson went by Michael and presented himself as male. About six months later, Branson started wearing make-up and women’s clothing to work. She noticed colleagues making fun of her and was eventually confronted about her changing appearance, according to the EEOC lawsuit.

Branson explained that she was transitioning from male to female and would be changing her name to Brandi. By April, only one physician was referring patients to Branson despite the fact that she’d been performing her job successfully, the lawsuit states.

In June 2011, the clinic fired Branson on the grounds that her position was being eliminated. That August, the clinic hired a replacement.

Branson filed a complaint with the EEOC, which subsequently charged that the clinic took the action it did because Branson was transgender, transitioning from male to female, and because she did not conform to the employer’s gender-based stereotypes.

Along with the monetary settlement, Lakeland agreed to implement a new gender discrimination policy and to provide training to its management and employees regarding transgender/gender stereotype discrimination.  The settlement was approved by the U.S. District Court in Tampa.

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  1. When did ENDA pass? Why is it illegal to discriminate on the basis of bizarre behavior?

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