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Iowa transsexual sues over workplace discrimination

Iowa transsexual sues over workplace discrimination

A transsexual worker at an Iowa tractor dealership has sued her former employer, claiming she was fired solely because she was in the process of changing her gender identity from male to female. Lauren Jansen, formerly Larry Jansen, claims in the lawsuit, filed on Monday, that the Murphy Tractor and Equipment Co. and its president violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Jansen was undergoing gradual physical changes as part of the transition to becoming a woman when she was fired from the Sioux City dealership in January, the lawsuit states. Courts historically have ruled that transsexuals are not a protected class under federal and states' civil rights laws, but transgender advocates say that is changing. Last week the sixth U.S. circuit court of appeals in Cincinnati became the first federal appeals court to extend the workplace discrimination protections of the Civil Rights Act to people who change their sex. The court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that employers cannot discriminate against women who do not wear dresses or makeup. "It follows that employers who discriminate against men because they do wear dresses and makeup, or otherwise act femininely, are also engaging in sex discrimination, because the discrimination would not occur but for the victim's sex,'' the appeals court ruled. Jansen, 56, is seeking damages for lost wages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. She had worked as a parts sales agent at the tractor dealership for 24 years and long felt she was a woman trapped in a man's body. She decided last year that she could no longer live as a man. Jansen started wearing earrings, grew out her hair, and began taking female hormones. Two managers informed Jansen in December that "because his sex was changing to female, he was going to be discharged," according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the mangers told Jansen the decision was made by Murphy Tractor president Thomas Udland and "was totally and singly based on the fact of his change of sex." Udland did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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