Privately owned finance company Tower Loan believes itself above the law. The company has over 180 branches in five states, over 700 employees and 200,000+ customers. One of its branches is in Louisiana where it recently fired Tristan Broussard for being transgender.
Tower insisted during a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation that federal anti-discrimination laws don’t protect employees who are transgender. The justice system is about to educate Tower.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), in conjunction with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Altshuler Berzon LLP and Delaney & Robb filed a suit in federal court on Broussard’s behalf on Monday. The case is currently pending.
Mr. Broussard is a well-spoken young man who was hired as a Manager Trainee for Tower Loan’s Lake Charles Branch. In a Youtube video produced by NCLR, Mr. Broussard explains his experience with Tower Loan. He states that he interviewed with a “Miss Leah” who told him that the interview went well and that she would let him know about the hiring decision in the “next few days.” Before Mr. Broussard even arrived at home, she was on the telephone offering him the job.
According to him, Miss Leah commented that, for only being on the job for two days, Mr. Broussard was already performing above and beyond expectations. The future looked bright for this bright young man. That is until a higher-level manager called Mr. Broussard and Miss Leah to a back office for a little meeting.
Upon sitting, Mr. Broussard was given a stack of documents, one of which the higher-up told him he had to sign. The document stated that Mr. Broussard’s “preference to act and dress as male” was not “in compliance with Tower Loan’s personnel policies.” Mr. Broussard, for all intents and purposes a male, refused to sign. Tower immediately fired him.
If you take the roughly five minutes to watch the video (and I hope you do), you’ll see a young man who is dressed professionally, speaks articulately and carries himself as many young professional men do. Not that it matters in the eyes of the law, but Mr. Broussard is what is called “passable.” In other words, most people cannot tell he wasn’t born male just by looking at him or listening to him speak. As I said, this is irrelevant in the eyes of the law; however, it serves to underscore Tower Loan’s blatant bigotry and refusal to follow employment laws.
There was no logical reason for Mr. Broussard’s termination other than transphobia. His immediate supervisor stated that his performance was well beyond that which was normally expected at that point in his training. He did not appear “different” in such a demonstrable way that might have caused Tower Loan’s customers to have a problem with him.
Therefore, there is no logical basis for Tower’s decision other than bigotry. This decision is based on a flawed understanding of federal law, a fact I’m sure the presiding judge will point out to Tower quite clearly. Many other U.S. courts have held that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act grants protection from discrimination against transgender employees just as it does for cisgender employees.
Even the EEOC, the agency given the power to interpret and enforce Title VII, says very clearly that employers cannot fire or refuse to hire employees based solely on their being transgender.
It amazes me that Tower Loan’s in-house counsel didn’t catch this one. Or, maybe they’re taking a stand based on some unwritten value held by the company. I hesitate to use the phrase “religious freedom” because it doesn’t appear in this story. However, I’m making an educated guess that it’s a possible reason. Especially given the recent introduction of one of the most noxious Religious Freedom Restoration Acts yet. Louisiana’s version unlike other states’, flat-out mentions allowing businesses to refuse service to homosexuals.
And we all know that there’s no difference between gays, lesbians and transfolk, right? HINT: That’s sarcasm.
Even if it’s not related to Louisiana’s Dark Ages Act, Mr. Broussard’s termination still reeks of bigotry. While I’m unable to be in Louisiana for what should be an interesting trial (if it gets that far), I will certainly be following this case and reporting back to you.