Monday, November 07, 2005

Peterson Extends Indianapolis' EEO Policy to Cover Transgender Workers

A change in the City of Indianapolis’ EEO Policy and a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court came as twin victories today for the transgender community. Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson expanded his executive order concerning non-discrimination for city workers to include gender identity, in addition to sexual orientation. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert for a case brought by the City of Cincinnati, seeking to deny Title VII protection to transgender workers.

The City of Indianapolis’ policy is now consistent with the State of Indiana’s EEO policy for its workers, as well as the language of Indianapolis’ proposed Human Rights Ordinance, which is still awaiting a favorable vote of the council. Peterson’s decision to expand coverage in the city’s EEO policy to include transgender workers did not come in the form of an official statement from his office. Rather, the new policy came in announcements made by several GLBT organizations today, including Indiana’s Stonewall Democrats, Indiana Equality and Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance. Governor Mitch Daniels’ EEO policy was similarly announced last April through the GLBT community rather than an official press release from his office.

"INTRAA would like to thank Mayor Peterson for taking this important step towards making Indianapolis a truly progressive, world-class city," said Leigh Anne Richards, President of the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance (INTRAA). "Changes such as this have been needed for a very long time and will make a real difference in the lives of so many people who are simply trying to make a living, support their families, and contribute to the community." According to the INTRAA statement, Bloomington’s Equal Opportunity Commission has made a similar recommendation to the City of Bloomington which is awaiting council action.

In a big decision for transgender workers, the U.S. Supreme Court denied cert for a case brought by the City of Cincinnati which urged the court to shield employers from Title VII discrimination lawsuits asserted by transsexuals. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals had earlier upheld a jury award of $320,000, plus $550,000 in attorney’s fees, in a case originally brought against the City of Cincinnati by a transgender police officer. The 24-year veteran of the city’s police department, Philecia Barnes (formerly Philip), charged that he was discriminated against by the department because he failed to conform to sex stereotypes. The City of Cincinnati had urged, among other things, on appeal an interpretation of Title VII discrimination cases that its protections did not extend to transgender workers. The 6th Circuit decision, which is in accord with decisions in several other circuits, will continue as the law of the land until the Supreme Court says otherwise.

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