Shea was thrilled when she applied to be a correctional officer (“C.O.”) at a south western state correctional institution. A U.S. Army vet with a college degree in criminal justice and experience in loss prevention, she was excited to begin her life-long dream of a working in corrections – a career that allowed her to use her knowledge and experience and that provided a solid income with excellent benefits. Shea passed all required exams and fitness tests, and the agency’s recruiters were aware of her transgender identity and encouraged her every step of the way.
When it came time for her to enroll in the correctional officer academy however, Shea was informed that she couldn’t enroll because her “anatomy was not clearly male or female.” In other words, because Shea had not yet had a gender affirming surgery (sexual reassignment surgery/SRS), she was prohibited from working as a C.O. in the men’s facility where she was scheduled to start work. She was also prohibited from working as a C.O. at a women’s state prison.
Gender identity discrimination is illegal under Title VII, the federal employment nondiscrimination statute. With the assistance of Transgender Law Center staff attorneys Matt Wood and Sasha Buchert, Shea was able to successfully resolve her case in an EEOC mediation and has begun working in a correctional institution. “I am grateful to Transgender Law Center for its support for me and all transgender people. I shouldn’t be denied a job just because of who I am,” she said.
“Unfortunately, incidents like this one are all too common for transgender employees and job applicants” said Staff Attorney Wood. “It’s important that transgender people know that federal law prohibits discrimination based upon gender identity. A transgender woman is a woman regardless of whether she has had SRS or not.”