FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A transgender employee who said she felt forced to quit her job at a Fargo hospital filed a federal lawsuit Dec. 2 alleging discrimination over the use of locker rooms and treatment by managers.
Faye Seidler, who was born as a male and identifies herself as a female, began hormone therapy in September 2013 as part of her transition. She says in the lawsuit she began working for Sanford Health as a technician in spring 2014 and notified managers during her 90-day review that she would be telling people who considered her to be male of her actual sex and gender.
“Over the next few months, plaintiff thoughtfully and thoroughly explained to defendants what such a transition at work could look like, and engaged them for the purposes of avoiding sex and/or gender discrimination,” the suit alleges.
Seidler says she asked for access to the women’s locker rooms in November 2014 but that the hospital refused to accommodate her request. She says she was forced to put her coat in the break room instead of a locker room and in one case her $300 down jacket was damaged or vandalized with ink.
Sanford spokesman Darren Huber said the company “will respond and defend against” the suit.
“Sanford’s employment policies prohibit discrimination of any kind, including discrimination based on sexual orientation,” he said.
The suit says managers did not treat her fairly in other aspects and one supervisor sent an email to at least 16 employees “expressing exasperation” with Seidler’s requests to be treated as a female in the workplace. Seidler says she felt she could no longer work in that environment and quit this past spring.
“While she recognized the defendants and some defendant employees were making some genuine good-faith efforts to treat her equally, she emphasized to defendants that she was still not being treated equally at work,” the suit says, adding that the only substantive response from management was that “things take time.”
Huber noted that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed Seidler’s complaint in September by saying it is “unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of statutes.” Joshua Newville, Seidler’s attorney, said the EEOC’s findings have “no bearing one way or another on the merits” of the suit.
“There are countless numbers of cases where the EEOC has not found probable cause and pursued enforcement against an employer despite the fact the cases have gone on and been successful in court,” Newville told The Associated Press.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and asks a judge to order the hospital from discriminating against employees who have undergone or are undergoing a gender transition.