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This is not legal advice, which can only be given by an attorney admitted to practice law in your jurisdiction after hearing all of the facts and circumstances in a particular case.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Transgender Colorado employee wins probable cause finding

From this morning's Diversity Chat blog:

Danielle M. Cornwell of Arvada, Colo., worked for 15 years as a radiographic testing technician for Intermountain Testing Company of Denver, which provides testing services to construction and manufacturing industries. She was their most senior experienced employee. She was fired one month after she transitioned in June 2005.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Civil Rights, has issued a "probable cause" finding against ITC that the company illegally discriminated against Cornwell on the basis of sex when it fired her.

I wonder upon what legal authority the agency is relying. As you may recall, the Governor of Colorado vetoed a bill that would have prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity in June. While Boulder and Denver both have ordinances prohibiting such discrimination, and it appears that ITC is based in Denver, it would be surprising to me from a legal standpoint if a state civil rights agency could base its decision on a city ordinance. A search of Westlaw reveals no Colorado cases on the subject of employment discrimination based on gender identity, transgender or transsexual status. Interestingly, the finding itself seems to be based on the employee's female status, rather than her gender identity. I note that there was a story in June about a transgender employee in Denver who sued Kroger successfully for the second time.

The only major employer in Colorado that has a corporate policy against such discrimination is the Coors Brewing Company, which received a 100% rating on the HRC Corporate Equality Index, though there are 17 Fortune 500 companies in Colorado (including Qwest Communications, First Data, TransMontaigne, Echostar Communications, Liberty Media, Ball, Liberty Global, MDC Holdings, Newmont Mining, Western Gas Resources, Level 3 Communications, CH2M Hill, Sports Authority, UAP Holding, ProLogis, and AIMCO.)

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