Landmark Ruling as Transgender Woman’s Employment Discrimination Case Heads to Trial

Melanie Nathan | Oblogdeeoblogda | January 15, 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 7.27.08 AMTuxedo Park, NY- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that a transgender woman may take her employment discrimination case against a Georgia auto sales company to trial. The decision (click here) in Chavez v. Credit Nation Auto Sales, LLC reverses an opinion by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in part, holding that there was sufficient evidence of discrimination for the case to be heard by a jury.

In January 2010, Jennifer Chavez was fired from her job as an auto mechanic at Credit Nation Auto Sales, LLC, a company near Atlanta, for “sleeping on the job.” The termination came shortly after Chavez had transitioned to live authentically while working for the company and allegedly experienced a number of discriminatory incidents in the workplace, including being told to “tone it down”, not wear a dress to and from work, not talk about her transition with other colleagues, and not  go into the restroom used by other female employees, among other incidents of of bias. The Eleventh Circuit opinion noted that Chavez offered evidence that her boss (James Torchia, President of Credit Nation) had told her, “I know you [Chavez] are the best mechanic here and I have heard that from everyone.” The ruling further states: “And yet even though Chavez was an excellent employee and had no prior disciplinary history, after disclosing her gender transition, Chavez soon found herself the subject of discipline.

Chavez asked the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to take her complaint and was denied on two  separate occasions. On the third attempt, the Commission took the complaint, but ruled it too late. (The EEOC later acknowledged the error, and filed a brief in favor of Ms. Chavez.) The Law Office of Jillian T. Weiss then took on the case and ultimately filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court, receiving the initial ruling against Chavez that was overturned on appeal this week by the Eleventh Circuit Court.

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