Attorneys for trans litigant say they’ve proven case
by Timothy Cwiek
Feb 06, 2014 | 1081 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Attorneys for transgender litigant Bobbie E. Burnett say they’ve proven their case against the city, and they’re asking a judge to let the matter go directly to a damages trial.

Burnett, 57, is a city library assistant who claims she suffered pervasive workplace bias since 2001, when she transitioned to the opposite gender.

She filed suit in 2009, alleging violations of city, state and federal laws that protect transgender people and ban gender stereotyping.

Her attorneys recently filed a lengthy motion seeking a damages trial. The motion was accompanied by numerous deposition transcripts and other exhibits.

“The discriminatory acts perpetrated against [Burnett] are clearly established,” the Jan. 27 motion states.

At presstime, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski hadn’t ruled on the request.

According to the motion, one library administrator admitted limiting Burnett’s ability to work with children; another admitted telling Burnett to act like a “lady”; and a third administrator admitted banning Burnett from a break room where she might be harassed.

The motion also details numerous obstacles Burnett allegedly encountered when attempting to use workplace restrooms.

“[Administrators] regularly barred [Burnett] from using the restrooms, male or female – in one instance barring the use of either and, in other instances, barring access to even the unisex restrooms,” the motion states.

According to the motion, Burnett was transferred to nine different library branches within six years.

“The sheer number of transfers in such a limited time boggles the mind,” the motion states.

The motion contends “the excessive transfers have all the appearance of ‘kicking the problem down the road,’ signifying that [administrators] viewed [Burnett] as the problem, rather than the problem being the institutionalized transphobic attitudes permitted to exist within the library system.”

Additionally, the transfers were designed to “throw [Burnett] into further depression and despondency,” and “had the effect of destabilizing [Burnett’s] work relationship with coworkers, which was counterproductive to establishing a good team rapport,” according to the motion.

Burnett went along with the transfers and refused to resign, the motion states.

“When the long series of transfers did not break her spirit and cause her to quit, [administrators] embarked on a long-term campaign to gather information that could be used to provide evidence for a poor performance evaluation, from across three supervisory levels and implicating three different branch managers,” the motion states.

A particularly hostile supervisor “was engaged in a campaign of shadowing [Burnett] and creating multiple fictitious adverse performance memoranda about her performance ‘deficiencies.’”

Questionable disciplinary reports were used to show that Burnett was “difficult to work with, was not a team player, was lazy, had a low output of qualitative and quantitative work and was often absent from her assignments,” the motion states.

Burnett also was subjected to offensive slurs and insults from coworkers, according to the motion.

“She was called a ‘devil’ and was told that she couldn’t fool anyone ‘by her wig,’ and was required to stand at her workstation where she could previously sit, and where others could sit.”

City attorney Brian J. Pierce hadn’t replied to the motion at presstime, and he had no comment for this story.

Burnett is seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

Numerous efforts to settle the case have been unavailing.

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