Brandi Branson settles suit against former employer after being fired for transitioning

A trans woman in Florida settled her suit with her former employer, Lakeland Eye Clinic, after being fired for transitioning at work. Lakeland agreed to pay Brandi Branson $150,000 in back pay and to implement non-discrimination training for their employees in settling the suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Brandi Branson

credit: Brandi Branson

Think Progress: Health Clinic Settles With Fired Transgender Worker For $150,000:

Last September, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a suit against Lakeland Eye Clinic in Florida for discriminating against an employee because she is transgender. This past week, the clinic settled, admitting no wrongdoing but agreeing to pay her $150,000 in back pay and damages and agreeing to implement gender identity nondiscrimination protections and trainings for employees.

When Brandi Branson was first hired by Lakeland in July of 2010 to serve as its director of hearing services, she had not yet begun to transition. Half a year later she began wearing feminine attire and makeup to work, prompting ridicule from her coworkers. In April of 2011, she told the clinic of her intentions to transition as well as her name change. In addition to negative treatment, all but one of the clinic’s physicians stopped referring patients to her. She was fired in June and told that her position, along with the whole hearing division, was being eliminated. Two months later, hearing services were still in place and Branson had been replaced.

Such alleged conduct, the EEOC argued, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, including non-conformance with gender stereotypes. Robert Weisberg, regional attorney of the commission’s Miami District Office, praised Lakeland for its timely cooperation in the “historic settlement.” In a press release, Weisburg explained, “As employers take a leadership role in enforcing the law prohibiting discrimination based on one’s gender identity, the American workplace will move closer to embracing an inclusive work environment where employees are judged on their merit and not on any preconceived gender stereotype.”

According to the order, in addition to agreeing to pay Branson and provide her a neutral job reference, Lakeland will adopt a policy protecting transgender employees from harassment and termination based on their gender identity. The clinic will also provide training to its management and employees that shall include the following: “(1) an explanation of the prohibition against transgender/gender stereotype discrimination under Title VII; (2) an explanation of the rights and responsibilities of managers and supervisors under Title VII and the Policy; and (3) guidance on handling transgender/gender-stereotype complaints made by applicants employees, and customers/clients/patients.” Notice of the new policy will be posted in all of Lakeland’s facilities.

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