Civil Rights Groups Sue National Finance Company for Illegally Firing Transgender Employee

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nclr_smNEW ORLEANS, LA—A national Mississippi-based finance company fired a transgender man after he refused to agree to dress and be treated as female, according to a federal employment discrimination lawsuit filed today by civil rights advocates.

Tristan Broussard, 21, was hired by Tower Loan as a manager trainee in the company’s Lake Charles, Louisiana branch in February 2014. After he started the job, company officials learned that he is transgender and asked him to sign a document stating that his “preference to act and dress as male” was not “in compliance with Tower Loan’s personnel policies,” according to the complaint. He refused and was fired.

Tower Loan is a privately owned company with 180 locations in five states. Broussard is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Altshuler Berzon LLP, and Delaney & Robb Attorneys at Law LLC.

“I was well qualified to do my job but was fired solely because of my gender,” Broussard said. “Rather than being treated like any other male employee, my employer told me I would be fired unless I dressed and acted as if I were female. The treatment I went through was inexcusable. It was wrong to be fired for who I am.”

The suit alleges that Tower Loan’s termination of Broussard violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the federal law that protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Courts across the country have repeatedly recognized that Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination protects transgender workers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the primary agency charged by Congress with interpreting and enforcing Title VII, has made clear that employers cannot fire or refuse to hire employees solely because they are transgender. Before filing suit, Broussard lodged a complaint with the EEOC, which concluded that Tower Loan violated Title VII by firing him.

“No one should have to face employment discrimination or the fear of being fired simply because of their gender,” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan. “That is what the case is about.”

SPLC Staff Attorney Sam Wolfe added: “Transgender people are due a fair chance at employment like anyone else. But the transgender community faces unacceptably high rates of unemployment and poverty due to widespread workplace discrimination. Tower Loan violated federal law when it fired Tristan because he is a transgender man. We are proud of Tristan for taking a stand against this injustice.”

P. Casey Pitts of Altshuler Berzon LLP said: “Federal law protects transgender workers who deserve the same certainty as others that their jobs and livelihood depend, not on irrelevant characteristics like their gender, but on their skills, effort, and performance.” [pullquote]”…But the transgender community faces unacceptably high rates of unemployment and poverty due to widespread workplace discrimination. Tower Loan violated federal law when it fired Tristan because he is a transgender man. We are proud of Tristan for taking a stand against this injustice.”[/pullquote]

“Tristan was denied the opportunity to demonstrate his capabilities and contributions to Tower Loan simply because of the company’s biased views about his gender. Our hope is that Tristan’s case will mark a positive change for all transgender people, especially here in Louisiana,” said Ryan P. Delaney of Delaney & Robb Attorneys at Law LLC.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, requests financial damages, declaratory relief, a permanent injunction against Tower Loan prohibiting it from engaging in unlawful sex discrimination against employees or applicants for employment, including on the basis of gender identity, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

In recent months, both the EEOC and the U.S. Department of Justice have filed lawsuits on behalf of transgender employees who have faced discrimination by their employers. The DOJ filed suit in March against Southeastern Oklahoma State University alleging that the university violated Title VII by discriminating against a transgender employee. The EEOC filed two lawsuits late last year on behalf of transgender women who were unlawfully fired by an eye clinic in Florida and a funeral home in Michigan.

Read the complaint.

Watch Tristan’s video and learn more about the case.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the human and civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.SPLCenter.org

Altshuler Berzon LLP is a law firm that specializes in labor and employment, constitutional, environmental, civil rights, and campaign and election litigation at both the trial court and appellate levels.

Delaney & Robb is a Louisiana law firm that focuses on legal issues regarding the LGBT population, including employment law, family law, estate planning, and general litigation.

[From a News Release]

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