Texas Trans Man Settles Hard-Fought AT&T Discrimination Case

Texas Trans Man Settles Hard-Fought AT&T Discrimination Case

Matthew Hileman, a transgender man who sued his former employer AT&T and the city of San Antonio over alleged transphobic discrimination in the workplace, has settled his case for an undisclosed amount after 15 months, reports Towleroad.

The suit revolve around Hileman's experiences working as an IT contractor for AT&T in San Antonio. After enduring his coworkers' alleged derogatory comments about LGBT people — some of which Hileman recorded without the speakers' knowledge — and finding a sign with an antigay slur placed on his chair, Hileman says he asked to have his position reassigned to another office in January 2014. The next week, Hileman was fired.

In response, Hileman filed the first claim of antitransgender discrimination under San Antonio's new nondiscrimination ordinance, which took effect in September 2013.

In September, after mediation between Hileman and the telecommunications company reached an impasse, AT&T officially denied any wrongdoing, telling the city attorney's office that the company had conducted its own internal investigation, including interviewing the two employees Hileman accused. Those employees denied making any offensive or threatening remarks, and also denied any involvement with the antigay sign Hileman found on his desk chair, according to AT&T.

The company also rejected the authenticity of Hileman's recording, while simultaneously shifting blame onto the former employee. In responding to Hileman's discrimination complaint, AT&T filed an objection with the Texas Attorney General's office about the validity of the audio, since the two employees' conversation was recorded without their consent, reports the San Antonio Current.

Hileman's recordings, allegedly taken in early September 2013, capture two men discussing the local nondiscrimination ordinance that was scheduled for a City Council vote the following day. In it, they make demeaning comments about transgender men's bodies, saying, "It would just be looking more like man boobs, kind of like some fat dude."

The two men also speculate on the penalties for committing a hate crime. One says, "But even if they get beat up, it won't last for long, because that will fall under the gay crime... Those are serious." One later adds that a trans man in the men's restroom would receive an "ass-whooping."

Hileman released the recording to the Current in September, telling the newspaper that he rejected financial offers made within mediation to withhold releasing the audio. "I don't want hush money," he explained. "I can't have hush money."

Hileman contends that he complained to a supervisor after hearing his former colleagues' conversation, who then told a manager. The manager then reportedly outed Hileman as trans to one of the threatening coworkers. Hileman says he then feared for his safety.

After going on to file a complaint with AT&T's human resources department, Hileman reports he found a sign placed on his chair. On it was written the word "Fag," circled and crossed out (akin to a "No Smoking" sign). Interpreting the sign as a direct threat, Hileman left his work premises and says he turned the note over to his supervisors, who later say they misplaced it. He then filed complaints with Texas' Equal Employemnt Opportunity Commission against both AT&T and the city, citing San Antionio's nondiscrimination ordinance, which protects against workplace discriminatino based on gender identity and expression.

Although the matter is now legally settled, Hileman's lawyer Justin Nichols told San Antonio LGBT newspaper Out in SA that the ordinance was no help for Hilmean's case.

"The NDO is broken and does not offer any protection for contract employees," he explained. "I don't mean to diminish the efforts of those who passed the NDO. ... What I want to convey is that the NDO needs fixing, and under the current mayoral administration, there is no effort to improve and implement the NDO, rendering it wholly ineffective."

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