Trans woman: Employer asked for photos
by Timothy Cwiek
Aug 13, 2009 | 20931 views | 6 6 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KATE LYNN BLATT
KATE LYNN BLATT
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Trans woman Kate Lynn Blatt says her former employer requested a photograph of her genitalia as a condition of continued employment, after questions arose about her use of a worksite female locker room.

At the time of the October 2007 incident, Blatt was employed by Manpower Inc., a global staffing-services agency with a branch office in Pottsville.

Manpower placed Blatt at Sapa Industrial Extrusions, a manufacturer of aluminum products in Cressona, where she earned about $10 an hour as a temporary factory worker.

Blatt worked at Sapa for about a month, before allegedly being told by a supervisor that she wasn’t physically well enough to work at the job and was no longer needed at Sapa, she said.

After being discharged from Sapa, Blatt said she personally visited Manpower’s branch office in Pottsville, in an attempt to return to work.

Irene Kudziela, branch manager of Manpower’s Pottsville office, allegedly told Blatt that a letter from her surgeon documenting her gender-reassignment surgery — along with a photograph of her genital area — would be necessary before she could return to Sapa.

Blatt, 28, said she found the request “repugnant” and “disgusting,” and declined to comply. She viewed the request as a form of sexual harassment, she added.

“I was shocked and disgusted,” Blatt said. “It felt like I was being reduced to a mere sex object. I was trying to work there in a dignified and private manner, but my dignity and privacy were constantly being violated.”

Kudziela declined to comment for this story.

Frank Koller, human-resources manager at Sapa, also declined to comment.

Blatt filed bias complaints against Sapa and Manpower with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, alleging wrongful discharge based on sex and disability. She said her disability is gender dysphoria.

The complaints remain under investigation, said Shannon Powers, a spokesperson for the PHRC.

Bethany Perkins, a spokesperson for Manpower Inc., said she couldn’t comment on the specifics of Blatt’s complaints. But she said Manpower is committed to ensuring a safe and non-exploitive work environment.

“The biggest thing to remember is that we’re absolutely committed to the safety and security of our workforce, including the transgender members of our workforce,” Perkins said. “We’re committed to having diversity in our workforce.”

In the aftermath of the incident, Blatt said she’s been denied future work opportunities at both Manpower and Sapa. Now unemployed, she said she wants to return to work at Sapa.

“I’m hoping I’ll be hired permanently by Sapa, possibly as a diversity trainer,” Blatt said. “I want these companies to stop looking at people like me as if we’re the worst evil there is. We’re valuable human beings who have a lot to offer these companies. Given the chance, we could be turned into great advocates for these companies.”

In response to Blatt’s allegation that she’s been banned from future employment at Manpower, Perkins said: “That would happen with anyone we went through a termination process with. That’s our policy for anybody that’s been terminated. What’s under question is whether it was a wrongful termination.”

Rue Landau, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, said she couldn’t comment on the specifics of Blatt’s complaints.

But, she said, the PCHR has developed a workplace-training program dealing with transgender issues, which is available to area employers upon request.

“We partner with local trans groups when training employers,” Landau said. “We provide guidelines and advisory training materials, which would be helpful to any employer dealing with this issue.”

Landau said the PCHR offers the service free of charge. “If we can, we’ll go anywhere,” she added. “We’re fully willing to help on this.”

Timothy Cwiek can be reached at (215) 625-8501 ext. 208.

Comments
(6)
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TheUnicorn
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October 01, 2009
My complaint isn't so much with Manpower. They may be following the orders of Sapa. Sapa is the one requesting the documentation. Manpower is just passing the info on. Granted, Manpower should have told Sapa that this is inappropriate, if not illegal. Manpower may just be saying that Sapa stated that this is what would be required for re-hire. Manpower may be just passing on the information. I wouldn't be so ready to jump on Manpower if this is Sapa's requirement, and not Manpower's.
A-nonny-mousse
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August 31, 2009
Dear Sir or Madam,

I have recently heard of your company and wanted some more information. I request that you email me an application for employment.

When I return my application to you, will I have to submit a picture of my genitals as an email attachment, or should I submit a hardcopy by mail? Is the genital-proof policy applicable to all of your locations, or only to your Pennsylvania branch?

Will I need to provide pictures of the genitals of all of my references? This would be important to know, as it may limit the number of people willing to give recommendations.

I understand and appreciate your dedication to comforting your employees and making them feel safe on the job. Will I be able to demand that my female co-workers prove their physical sex to me should I be hired? After all, I don’t know them, and as your policy proves, we can’t just take someone’s word for it that they are really what they say they are. Gender is obvious, and unquestioned, but everyone knows that it’s the pieces of a person that I have no reasonable assumption of ever seeing that are the truly dangerous ones that may effect my daily work environment.

If I have to provide pictures of my genitals to my co-workers, does this mean that I do not need to wear pants to work? If they already know what they look like, why should I have to put up with the discomfort of clothing to hide them? Perhaps that last question needs a narrower focus. I will obviously not be able to display my genitals anywhere public as that is already covered as indecent exposure by public decency laws. Will I be able to display them in private, where clients won’t see, or, only in front of my female co-workers?

I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions, and eagerly await your response.

Deusabscondidum
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August 19, 2009
I am beyond apalled. I have worked with Manpower before, and was intending to sign back up with them after finishing school in the Fall.

Seriously, unless one is a porn star, who would feel right about their employers having nude pictures of their private parts? She worked in a factory, and her genitalia had no bearing on her work.

This is why ENDA needs to be passed - if ENDA were enacted, women like Kate Lynn Blatt couldn't be legally let go for being transgender.
MelanieLogan
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August 18, 2009
How vile can a company possibly get? Manpower, Inc. should be ashamed of itself. Their company has thousands of GLBTQ employees in major metropolitan areas all over the US.
Celebelena
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August 15, 2009
It's absolutely disgusting behaviour to ask to see photos of her genitalia. In my view it's certainly discrimination. I'm at a complete loss of words to describe how awful and disgusting Irene and her company's behaviour is.
Liz Church
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August 15, 2009
"Irene Kudziela, ... allegedly told Blatt that a letter from her surgeon documenting her gender-reassignment surgery — along with a photograph of her genital area — would be necessary before she could return to Sapa."

What's the difference between this and installing hidden cameras in the ladies' bathroom? Here in the UK we regularly imprison people for this conduct and upon release they are committed to the sex offender's register which means they have to report things like change of address to the police.

Liz Church

Glasgow

Scotland