A North Dakota woman has settled her suit against her employer, Sanford Health for discriminating against her because she is transgender. Last December Faye Seidler filed suit in federal court against her employer claiming it engaged in discriminatory workplace practices in violation of Title VII for refusing her access to the women’s locker room.
Seidler was assigned the male gender at birth but later began to identify as female. In September 2013, prior to her employment with Sanford Health, she began hormone therapy to physically transition to the female gender. She was hired by Sanford in the Spring of 2-14, during her gender transition. Initially, she did not demand that she be allowed use of the women’s locker room, as she put it “in recognition of her workplace transition.” Seidler also claimed that she had “thoughtfully and thoroughly” explained to everyone in her workplace about her gender identification throughout her term of employment. She ultimately demanded access to the women’s locker room, reminding her employer that her birth certificate and driver’s license identified her as female. In her suit, Seidler claims she was denied access to the women’s locker room for several months after requesting its use. Attorneys for both sides refused to disclose the terms of the settlement.
Employers are still feeling their way through enforcement of transgender rights in the workplace. With little guidance from the courts, it sometimes feels complicated to balance the rights and comfort of everyone when presented with transgender issues. In Illinois, the law is clear that employers cannot discriminate against transgender workers. If a transgender employee wants to use facilities consistent with their gender identity, then that is their right. Others who may be uncomfortable with that can be accommodated with a separate or private facility to use.
In addition to enforcing the rights of transgender individuals, employers are wise to establish policies for workplace behavior as well as to protect the rights of customers or patrons. In addition to policies, we strongly advise that employees receive training on this white hit topic in the law.