Philadelphia – The University of Pennsylvania has withdrawn its legal stance in a contentious court case that trans workers in the region aren’t protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a federal workplace-antibias law. In July, Penn and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania were sued by “Jane Doe,” a trans woman and former employee at HUP, who alleges she was illegally fired from her job at HUP after experiencing severe harassment while a patient there. One of her claims is employment discrimination covered by Title VII, which bans workplace bias on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, or national origin. Earlier this month, Penn filed a legal document, claiming that discrimination based on transgender status is not actionable under Title VII in the Third Circuit. The Third Circuit covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands.
After significant media attention, Penn’s attorneys sent a letter to US District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg on November 13th, withdrawing that position. “Penn Defendants are committed to protecting the civil rights of their students, employees, patients and others affiliated with Penn,” wrote attorney Joe H. Tucker Jr. “Penn Defendants have maintained longstanding policies of nondiscrimination with respect to sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among other protected characteristics. In fact, Penn’s existing policies afford greater protection against discrimination of any kind than existing federal law. Regardless of the outcome of the pending US Supreme Court case addressing the scope of protection afforded by current federal law, the Penn defendants remain fully committed to affording the full measure of protection under their policies to our transgender patients and employees. Consistent with this commitment, we have decided to withdraw [our position that Title VII doesn’t cover trans workers].”
Justin F. Robinette, a local civil-rights attorney who’s following the Doe case, questioned why Penn initially took an anti-trans position. “I’m glad to see Penn is correcting course and won’t be actively complicit in trying to roll back LGBT protections,” Robinette told Philadelphia Gay News. “But the question should be asked that if Penn were fully committed to LGBT nondiscrimination, why would Penn take such a position in the first place?” (Philadelphia Gay News – at Tim Cwiek at http://www.epgn.com/news/breaking-news/15434-penn-withdraws-position-that-trans-workers-aren-t-protected-under-title-vii)