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December 11, 2004



June 20, 2002

NCLR Applauds Rejection of Teacher's Lawsuit
Federal Appeals Court Rejects Attempt to Keep Transgender Woman from Using the Women's Restroom

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The National Center for Lesbian Rights applauds a federal appeals court that said a Minneapolis public school did not discriminate against a female teacher by allowing a transsexual woman, also a teacher at the school, use the women's restroom.

After an unsuccessful attempt to pursue her claim through the state administrative agency, Southwest High School teacher Carla Cruzan filed suit in federal court arguing that permitting transgender library employee Debra Davis to use the women's bathroom violated Cruzan's religious freedom and created a hostile workplace based on sex. The district court rejected her claims, and she appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, in St. Louis.

In opinion issued today, the 8th Circuit also rejected Cruzan's claims. The Court held that subjective personal opinions and sensitivities cannot form the basis of a hostile work environment claim, which must be based on conduct that a reasonable person would find hostile and offensive.

This holding, affirming a school's right to provide equal access to all of its employees, is important in other contexts as well. Recently in San Diego, a father complained to his daughter's school district claiming that his daughter was being discriminated against for having had to share a bathroom with other lesbian students. In a similar incident this year, another public school in northern California told an eighth grade girl that she could no longer attend gym class after she came out as a lesbian.

"This is a great victory for transgender employees, who wish merely to be treated with basic human dignity," said Shannon Minter, NCLR's Legal Director. "The Court made it clear that employers cannot discriminate against transgender people simply because some other employees don't like them."

NCLR filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, which argued that subjective personal opinions and sensitivities cannot form the basis of a hostile work environment claim, which must be based on conduct that a reasonable person would find hostile and offensive.

Thanks - I see that Michael Dorf has now written a FindLaw Writ on this as well - April 11, 2005 at

Ann Althouse discusses the issue of gendered restrooms in light of a recent decision by a New York Appellate Court:

I do not think that a person's genetalia should dictate their gender or gender preference. If Jack dresses in drag, then Jack is a woman, and so being, she has a right to use whatever restroom or locker room she wishes to use. This is a basic human rights issue. Furthermore, no-one having a restroom emergency should ever be excluded from using a restroom on account of their gender. Again, this is a basic human rights issue.

A man wearing a woman's full length fur coat, a pony tail and heavy make-up, like the one standing next to me at the cashier in the dept. store this week, is still a man, and he belongs in the men's restroom when nature calls. Or, for libraries, in the unisex/handicapped restroom (a far better reason to have this) for which one requests a key.

I have been told that at one library the university's diversity officer told officials that there had to be one unisex bathroom (so labelled) precisely to address the issue of people who fall somewhere between the more traditional male and female definitions.

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