Tristan Broussard, a 21-year-old transgender man living in Hathaway, La., has filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, First Tower Loan, LLC, alleging that the company's management fired him for being transgender and refusing to wear "women's clothes" to work, reports Lake Charles, La., TV station KPLC.
In his suit, filed on his behalf by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and two other law firms, Broussard describes how, after his first week working as a manager trainee at Tower Loan's Lake Charles Branch in March 2014, he was called into the company vice president's office to discuss his work attire after his supervisor informed management that Broussard was a transgender man.
Broussard says he had explained to the supervisor he was trans when she asked why his gender was listed as "female" on his driver's license. "She was very nice to me and told me she didn't have a problem with it and nobody at the office should care," Broussard told KPLC.
But the vice president had a different reaction. When Broussard joined him in his office, the vice president handed Broussard a list of the "female dress code" guidelines and informed him that the Mississippi-based company's corporate headquarters had decided to "draw a line" about Broussard's gender expression.
"If you can comply that you're female and you choose to dress as a female, then you can continue to work for Tower Loan," Broussard recalled the vice president telling him in the NCLR video below. "And if not, we're going to have to ask you to give your key back and go clean up your desk."
When Broussard then refused to sign the document stating that his "preference to act and dress as male" was not "in compliance with Tower Loan's personnel policies," he was fired. His suit claims that he faced sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In December, the Department of Justice clarified that employer discrimination against gender identity is, indeed, a form of "sex discrimination" prohibited by Title VII.
Tower Loan, meanwhile, has argued that trans employees are not protected under this federal provision, according to NCLR. When Saks Fifth Avenue made the same claim in January when facing a workplace discrimination suit from Texas trans employee Leyth O. Jamal, they were ultimately forced to withdraw that claim.
In addition to Jamal and Broussard's cases, several recent lawsuits by trans employees have made headlines, including a win this week for Army employee Tamara Lusardi, suits against Forever 21 and Lakeland Eye Clinic, and a suit against Southern Oklahoma State University -- the first lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice against an employer for antitrans discrimination.
Broussard is now seeking a permanent injunction against Tower Loan, back pay and reinstatement, or front pay with interest and benefits, to have his legal fees associated with the case paid for by the company, and several other judgements, notes KPLC. Tower Loan has declined to publicly comment about the ongoing litigation.
Learn more about Broussard's case from the NCLR video below.