Disability Law

Workers with gender dysphoria are entitled to protection under the ADA, federal judge rules

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A federal judge in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a transgender woman who claims discrimination by her former employer, Cabela’s Retail Inc., under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Leeson ruled (PDF) that the ADA protects people with gender dysphoria from discrimination, even though the law specifically excludes gender identity disorder from its protections, report Reuters and the Washington Blade.

Leeson ruled in a suit filed by Kate Lynn Blatt, who had claimed she was fired from a Cabela’s store in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, because of her sex and disability. Blatt’s lawyer, Neelima Vanguri, told Reuters that the decision is the first to allow a transgender person to sue under the ADA for discrimination based on gender dysphoria.

The ADA says the term “disability” does not include “transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders.”

Leeson distinguished the non-disabling condition of merely identifying with a different gender from gender dysphoria, “which goes beyond merely identifying with a different gender and is characterized by clinically significant stress and other impairments that may be disabling.”

Leeson said his interpretation of the law made it unnecessary to decide whether the exclusion for gender identity disorders violates Blatt’s equal protection rights.

Blatt had alleged that workers at Cabela’s had subjected her to degrading comments, and that she was not allowed to wear a name tag with her female name or to use the women’s restroom.

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