The Vermont attorney general's office ruled Friday that the town of Hardwick discriminated against a transgendered police officer by firing him in April 2003.
The ruling was released as Hardwick officials settled with Anthony Barreto-Neto for $90,000. "This is a groundbreaking decision for transgendered people, who have historically been excluded from many civil rights protections and continue to experience pervasive discrimination," said Jennifer Levi of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the legal organization that represented Barreto-Neto.
Barreto-Neto was born a woman but had sex-reassignment surgery in the 1990s. He began his law enforcement career in Florida and joined the Hardwick Police Department in April 2002. Shortly after his hiring, Barreto-Neto returned to Florida for a short period "for personal reasons," according to the state investigation. During his absence Hardwick town manager Dan Hill received an anonymous phone message from a caller in Florida who had information about Barreto-Neto.
Hill never spoke with the caller but searched the Internet for information on Barreto-Neto's background, learning from Web sites that Barreto-Neto was transgendered, according to the investigation. The discovery concerned Hill, who told then-chief Greg Rambo and another officer of his
findings, according to the investigation. Rambo told investigators that during that meeting Hill told him and Sgt. James Dziobek to "encourage" Barreto-Neto to resign "because his status would be
an embarrassment to the town."
Rambo, who became chief in May 2002, resigned just two weeks later because of Hill's request and unspecified "personal reasons," he told investigators. In July 2003, Barreto-Neto filed a complaint with the attorney general's office, alleging that he had been discriminated against and ultimately fired by town officials because he was transgendered and suffered gender dysphoria, a condition defined as unhappiness with one's sex or gender role.