Rivera v. Springfield Rescue Mission
Update June 21, 2018: The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination found that there was probable cause that discrimination occurred. A date for mediation has been scheduled for August 6.
On January 30, 2017, GLAD filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination on behalf of our client, Lynn Rivera. Lynn, who is from Puerto Rico and identifies as transgender, was discriminated against by a place of business based on their gender identity, sex and race, in violation of Massachusetts Public Accommodation Laws.
Months earlier, Lynn had tried to shop at the Give-Away Center, a distribution center in Springfield open to the public that provides items like clothing and toiletries to those in need, at no cost. Because Lynn exclusively wears men’s clothing, they intended to shop only for men’s clothing items at the Give-Away Center. But when Lynn began shopping for clothing, an employee loudly told them that ‘only men were allowed in the men’s section’ and ‘only women were allowed in the women’s section.’ This employee later said that because Lynn’s identification said female, they could not take any clothing from the men’s section.
At the time of the incident, Lynn was on a road to self-sufficiency after a life-long battle with substance abuse and poverty, outcomes linked to family rejection and pervasive bias related to their gender identity. Lynn had sought the help of Tapestry Health, a community-based health services organization in Western Massachusetts. It was through Tapestry Health that Lynn was connected with Tapestry Health employee and former case manager, Emily, who would go on to support and connect Lynn to community resources, including the Give-Away Center.
Springfield Rescue Mission moved to dismiss the case by arguing their religious character exempted them from coverage under the Massachusetts Public Accommodation Law. GLAD Staff Attorney Allison Wright, who has been working with Lynn on their case, has since submitted a rebuttal to Springfield Rescue Mission’s position statement and an opposition to their motion to dismiss the case.