Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail Inc.
Update 5/18/17: In a landmark ruling, a federal district court in Pennsylvania ruled on May 18 that a transgender woman’s employment discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can move forward. The opinion marks the first time a court has ruled that transgender people are not categorically barred from seeking relief from discrimination under the ADA.
This case challenges the constitutionality of the exclusion of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) from the definition of disability in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
A December 2015 hearing in the case marked the first opportunity for the constitutional arguments for striking the transgender exclusion written into the ADA to be fully laid out in court. GLAD submitted an amicus brief and provided consultation on the case.
The federal district court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania heard argument December 10. The hearing marked the first opportunity for the constitutional arguments for striking the transgender exclusion written into the ADA to be fully laid out in court. Read more
The Department of Justice submitted a statement of interest, in which it urged the court to ignore the ADA’s GID exclusion in order to avoid a constitutional problem raised by the ADA’s unfair treatment of transgender claimants. Noting that when the law passed in 1990, it explicitly excluded from its protections people with GID except for those whose GID results from “physical impairments,” DOJ said that transgender people should be able to pursue ADA claims “because a growing body of scientific evidence suggests” that being transgender may have a physical origin.
GLAD and fellow amici submitted this statement in response to the statement of the DOJ.
Update 9/21/15: U.S. District Judge Joseph Leeson issued an order instructing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to intervene or file a supplemental statement of interest on or before November 16, 2015, regarding the constitutionality of the GID exclusion in the ADA. The DOJ had previously declined to weigh in on the question. Argument in the case is scheduled for December 10, 2015.
GLAD has filed a brief of amici curiae and is providing consultation in the case of a Pennsylvania transgender woman, Kate Lynn Blatt, challenging the constitutionality of the exclusion of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) from the definition of disability in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
GLAD’s brief asserts that the GID exclusion in the ADA violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and that the updated diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria (GD) in fact falls outside the scope of that exclusion as defined in the law.
The brief lays out the clear animus towards transgender people demonstrated in the legislative record in the debate on the GID exclusion, as well as the erroneous inclusion of GID with “sexual behavior disorders” at the time of the exclusion’s adoption.
Calling out the exclusion as “blatant, legally-sanctioned prejudice against transgender people,” the brief argues that by maintaining it the ADA perpetuates the very thing it seeks to dismantle: “’the prejudiced attitudes or ignorance of others” and the ‘inferior status’ that people with disabilities – or those “regarded-as” by others as having a disability – occupy in society.
About the Case
Following a formal diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria (GD) in 2005, Kate Lynn Blatt took steps to live in accordance with her female gender identity, including changing her name, growing her hair long and wearing female clothing.
Blatt was hired as a Seasonal Stocker at Cabela’s Retail in the fall of 2006. She attended a two-day orientation dressed in female attire, and used the women’s employee restroom without issue.
Once she started working, however, Blatt was prohibited from using the women’s restroom and was forced to wear a nametag depicting her name as “James,” even after she presented the director of human resources with documentation of her legal name change. Blatt was made to use the single-sex “family” restroom at the front of the store, rather than the female employee restroom closer to her work area. She also endured harassment from management and coworkers, and was abruptly terminated in March, 2007.
Blatt is pursuing charges under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – on the grounds that Cabela’s discriminated against her based on her sex – and the ADA – on the grounds that Cabela’s refused her reasonable accommodation in the form of an appropriate nametag and use of an appropriate restroom.
Cabela’s has filed a partial motion to dismiss on the premise that Blatt’s GD does not constitute a disability under the ADA.
Blatt is represented by Sidney L. Gold, Neelima Vanguri and Brian Farrell of Sidney L. Gold & Associates.