The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, kicked off LGBT Pride Month on June 1 with a program featuring the AFGE member whose landmark discrimination case established job protections for transgender federal employees.
Tamara Lusardi, a veteran and member of Local 1858 in Alabama, was born a male but transitioned to female in 2010 while working as a civilian employee with the Department of Defense. Lusardi was met with discrimination at the worksite. Her supervisor often refused to acknowledge her as she wished and she met resistance when trying to go about her day like any other employee, including going to the female restroom.
“I am a woman. Yes, I’m transgender, but I’m a woman first,” Lusardi told EEOC employees and guests during the Pride Month program at EEOC headquarters.
With the help of AFGE and the Transgender Law Center, Lusardi fought back against the workplace discrimination and, in 2014, won a prohibited personnel practice complaint filed with the Office of Special Counsel. The following April, the EEOC issued its own groundbreaking ruling determining that the Army had discriminated against Lusardi on the basis of sex, which is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
EEOC Chair Jenny Yang said Lusardi has “helped to advance the ongoing struggle for civil rights for all.” Later this month, the EEOC will be issuing new policy guidance regarding accommodating transgender employees in the federal workplace, Yang said.
Unfortunately, the discrimination faced by Lusardi is far too common in workplaces across the country, said Ria Tabacco Mar, an ACLU staff attorney who focuses on LGBT issues. According to a 2009 survey of nearly 6,500 transgender people, 97% said they have been mistreated or harassed on the job and 47% reported an adverse job outcome such as being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion.
Elected leaders are adding to the troubles, proposing more than 200 bills in statehouses across the country that attempt to deny equal protections to LGBT citizens, Mar said. Most notably, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory in March signed into law a bill that, among other things, prevents transgender citizens from going to the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Since winning her discrimination case, Lusardi has become an advocate for LGBT rights within the union and in her community. She is currently working to get a transgender policy introduced in the Army and while in D.C. attended the Capital Pride Alliance’s Heroes Gala, where she met Army Secretary Eric Fanning, the first openly gay leader of any U.S. military branch.
Lusardi said she was humbled to be invited to the EEOC event and to meet the commissioners and agency staff who worked on her case.
“I never thought I would get the opportunity to meet the people who decided the case,” Lusardi said.
AFGE’s Women’s and Fair Practices Department has developed a Transgender Inclusive Workplace Model Policy that locals can use to ensure that their worksite is inclusive and safe for transgender, gender non-conforming, and transitioning employees. The department worked with the Transgender Law Center on the policy, which includes definitions, specific policies and procedures, and a sample workplace transition plan.
“A number of our activists reached out to us, looking for guidance on this critical issue,” said AFGE National Vice President for Women and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas. “As a union that prides itself on advocating for the rights of workers, it was high time that we put this together.”
For more information on AFGE’s Federal Employees Transgender Model Policy, contact the Women’s and Fair Practices Department at (202) 639-6417.