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Settlements reached in transgender restroom access cases

Settlements reached in transgender restroom access cases

Two settlements reached on Thursday under the New York City Human Rights Law guaranteeing safe access to restrooms for transgender people were the first in city history, according to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented the plaintiffs. The settlements resolved complaints against Advantage Security for discriminating against two transgender women by refusing to allow them to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The settlements came the same day a New York state appeals court dismissed a lawsuit filed by an AIDS education group accusing its landlord of refusing to renew its lease because its transgender clients were using the building's common-area restrooms. The complaints against Advantage were filed with the New York City Commission on Human Rights on behalf of Justine Nicholas and Pauline Park. According to the complaint, when Nicholas came out of the women's restroom in a building where she was taking a GRE college admissions test, she was confronted by an Advantage guard who demanded that she produce identification to prove her gender. "I felt humiliated," she said. "He confronted me in a public place in front of other people and demanded that I show identification with my gender on it. I did so, but I was very upset and distracted during a time when I needed to be on my best for the examination I was taking." When Park, who runs a transgender advocacy group, came out of the women's restroom at the Manhattan Mall, she said a group of Advantage guards surrounded her and demanded to know her gender. "The guards' behavior was menacing, and I felt threatened," she said. "As a transgender activist, I've been harassed before, and I am familiar with the type of restroom harassment that transgender people regularly endure, but the experience of being singled out and harassed in such a public way was still very upsetting to me." "By refusing to allow Ms. Nicholas and Ms. Park to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity, Advantage Security intentionally discriminated against them in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law," said Michael D. Silverman, TLDEF's executive director. "With this victory, we have the first clear pronouncement that the New York City Human Rights Law protects transgender people from harassment and other forms of discrimination when they use restrooms." The settlements provide that Advantage will cease discriminating against transgender people and adopt a policy of allowing people to use bathrooms consistent with their gender presentation. Additionally, Advantage will conduct training for its security guards, supervisors, and managers on its new restroom access policy. In a related story, the New York state supreme court's appellate division on Thursday rejected the Hispanic AIDS Forum's complaint that transgender people were being improperly excluded from the common-area restrooms in the building where they were renting. Rather, the majority on the court wrote, the transgender people were excluded from bathrooms on the basis of their sex. The panel agreed with an earlier ruling that said bathroom exclusion based on biological "gender" rather than "self-image" is not discrimination.

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