GLAD Resolves Case Involving Transgender Woman's Firing

On behalf of Sarah Blanchette, a transgender woman, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) has settled on mutually satisfactory terms a lawsuit against St. Anselm College of Manchester, New Hampshire. The college fired Ms. Blanchette, a computer programmer, in April 2004, after learning that she would be transitioning from male to female.
"It's our view that the prohibitions on sex discrimination under state and federal law make it illegal to fire an employee simply because he or she is transgender," said Bennett Klein, senior attorney with GLAD. "As transgender people increasingly seek fair treatment in the workplace, employers must educate themselves about their transgender employees and their legal rights. If they do not, they will find themselves met with a swift and strong legal response."

Ms. Blanchette said in a written statement, "I hope that the lawsuit has brought to public light the issues that can confront transgender people in the workplace. We are not really that different from everyone else, and want the same basic things out of life: happiness, love, security, comfort and peace of mind."

Ms. Blanchette was born male and was known as Robert Blanchette. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a recognized medical condition, and began a course of treatment under accepted standards of care devised by medical experts. In March 2004, she informed her superiors that she would return from a two-week vacation presenting herself as female.

St. Anselm College then fired her, stating in a letter dated April 14, 2004, "As you know, you recently disclosed to senior college administration your transsexual status. Upon consideration, you are immediately relieved of your duties..." The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on May 26, 2005, and was settled in January 2006. Case documents can be viewed on GLAD's web site:

GLAD has won significant cases establishing legal protections against discrimination for transgender persons throughout New England, including Doe v. Yunits, which established the right of a transgender middle school student in Massachusetts to dress in gender-appropriate clothing, and Barreto-Neto v. Town of Hardwick (VT), which established that Vermont law protects transgender people from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, and other areas

GLAD attorneys Bennett Klein and Jennifer Levi represented Ms. Blanchette along with Jon Meyer of Backus, Meyer, Solomon & Branch in Manchester.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England's leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression.

Carisa Cunningham
Public Affairs and Education Director
617-426-1350 x11
Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders