Transgender Case Will Go to Trial

It's the first employment case of its kind in Pennsylvania

Photo by Think Stock

Bobbie E. Burnett could make history in Pennsylvania. She’s suing the city after she says she was discriminated against because of her gender at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Burnett was employed by the library for more than two decades before transitioning into a woman about 11 years ago. That’s when she claims she suffered ongoing discrimination from both management and co-workers for her transgender status, according to several recent reports.

While the city had offered Burnett a settlement about three years ago – one that she accepted – it was eventually rescinded. Now, both sides of the case have filed paperwork to move the case to trial. But the big question is whether the trial and verdict could change the way transgender issues are handled in the workplace.

According to the ACLU of Pennsylvania, there is no federal law in place to protect a person from being fired over sexual orientation or gender identity. Twenty-nine states, including Pennsylvania, also lack employment protections based on sexual orientation and 37 states do not protect transgendered people. The upside here in PA is that as many as 24 local governments now have ordinances prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT people – but sadly, that still leaves as many as 70 percent of the state unprotected.

It’s expected that as Burnett’s case moves to trial – possibly as early as next year – it could set a precedent in PA and around the country.