FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | June 22, 2005
National Center for Lesbian Rights Says Case Before Federal Appeals Court Will Have Impact on Transgender and Other Gender Non-Conforming People
"An employee who is doing a good job should not be fired simply because she is not comfortable wearing high heels and heavy make-up, Workers should be judged based on their competence, not whether they conform to gender stereotypes."
(San Francisco, CA, June 22, 2005) — In a case expected to impact many transgender and gender non-conforming people, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit holds argument today about whether an employer can force a long-time employee to adopt a hyper-feminine appearance. Darlene Jespersen, a 21-year employee of Harrah's Casino in Reno, NV, was fired for refusing to comply with a new policy requiring all women to wear specific kinds of makeup (foundation or powder, blush, lipstick and mascara) applied in exactly the same way every day, to match a photograph held by the supervisor.
"An employee who is doing a good job should not be fired simply because she is not comfortable wearing high heels and heavy make-up," said Shannon Minter, Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. "Workers should be judged based on their competence, not whether they conform to gender stereotypes."
After a divided three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit initially upheld a lower court ruling against Jespersen, the full court agreed to rehear the case. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Transgender Law Center (TLC) filed a friend of the court brief explaining how sex-specific dress and grooming codes such as Harrah's have a particularly detrimental impact on transgender people and other people who do not conform to gender stereotypes.
"Harrah's policy reinforces harmful gender stereotypes that lead to rampant discrimination against our transgender clients on a daily basis," said Christopher Daley, Director of the Transgender Law Center. "While Darlene is not transgender, the pain she is suffering makes clear that discrimination based on gender stereotypes has far reaching consequences and is damaging to many people."
Jespersen is represented by Lambda Legal and their cooperating counsel Ken McKenna of Reno, Nevada.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.