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Does the ADA Cover Transgender Employees?

2017-07-25

Maybe, so you should treat it like it does.

In Kate Lynn Blatt v. Cabela’s Retails, Inc. a federal district court in PA ruled that a transgender former employee can proceed with her Americans with Disability (ADA) claims. 

Allegedly, Blatt complained to management that her coworkers were making degrading and discriminatory comments since she is transgender and has gender dysphoria.  Gender dysphoria, also known as gender identity disorder, is a medical condition in which a person’s gender identity does not match his or her anatomical sex at birth. This led Blatt to change her name from James to Kate Lynn and change her physical appearance to confirm to her female gender identity.

Blatt alleged that although she requested accommodations for her gender dysphoria, which included a female work uniform and the use of the women’s restrooms, her requests were denied.  Cabela’s required Blatt to wear a “James” nametag and use only the men’s restroom until “her name and gender marker were legally changed.”  After legally changing her name, Blatt got her “Kate Lynn” nametag; however, was only permitted to use the unisex “family” bathroom.

After being terminated in retaliation of her complaints and requested accommodations, she filed a lawsuit under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

Cabela’s moved to have the ADA case dismissed saying that the term disability does not include “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.”  Blatt’s attorney’s argued that excluding her condition under ADA would be a violation of her equal protection rights.  Without addressing the equal protection claim, the court denied Cabela’s motion to dismiss.  The court held that the ADA’s exclusion of gender identity disorders could be read narrowly to exclude only the condition of identifying with a different gender but not excluding “disabling condition that persons who identify with a different gender may have.”  Blatt alleged that her gender dysphoria substantially limits her major life activities and therefore could be a covered disability.  The court concurred.

This adds one more thing to consider in dealing with transgender employees or applicants.  

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.