Leythe Jamal hit back at Saks Fifth Avenue in federal court in Houston Tuesday, with her attorneys responding to the upscale retail giant's motion to dismiss her lawsuit claiming she was discriminated against on the job.
Attorneys Jillian Weiss and Mitchell Katine filed a response, citing legal precedent in countering the defendant's claim that Jamal's case has no merit because she is transgender.
They argued that discrimination based on gender, gender expression, and gender identity is indeed sex discrimination, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as interpreted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Among their citations was a 2008 decision in the Southern District of Texas that they argue interpreted Title VII to cover transgender employees.
And Jamal received a boost in an amicus, or friend of the court, brief filed by the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Lesbian Rights in support of her response. They asked that the court deny the motion to dismiss.
Until July 2012, Jamal worked at a Saks in Houston, where she says managers repeatedly referred to her as a man and required her to use the men's restroom. Jamal also says that although managers were aware of her transgender identity, they pressured her to make her appearance more masculine.
Last week, New York State's top lawman, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, sent a letter to Saks informing the store he will investigate its treatment of transgender employees. And earlier this month, HRC suspended Saks's Corporate Equality Index ranking as a result of its stand in the Jamal case.
At press time, Saks and its attorneys had not yet responded to Jamal's court filing.
Editor's note: The reporter manages media relations for the plaintiff's attorney, Jillian Weiss.