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Transgender Metra worker suing over discrimination
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2011-11-02

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A transgender Metra worker is suing the agency over a refusal to let him use the men's bathroom and locker room at work, despite the fact that he was out as trans and in the process of physically transitioning.

Chris Stevens (a pseudonym to protect his privacy) said that his supervisors told him he could not use the men's facilities at work even after he obtained state ID listing his gender as male. Stevens has been working as a coach cleaner for Metra since 2008, he said.

"It's important for my comfort level," Stevens told Windy City Times. "I just feel like it's really humiliating."

Stevens filed a complaint with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations last year with help from The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA).

According to Stevens, he began transitioning to male in March 2010, and informed Metra of his new name and pronoun preference. Stevens said his supervisors continued to refer to him using an old name and pronouns and that he was told he wouldn't be allowed to use the men's room until after he had surgery.

Stevens said he obtained a new state ID card that lists him as male, but was still denied use of the men's room.

Metra spokesperson Meg Reile declined to respond to the allegations, stating "we don't comment on pending litigation."

According to a motion to dismiss the case filed by Metra and supplied to Windy City Times by TCRA, Metra argued that the Chicago Human Rights Ordinance, which protects gender identity, only applies to public accommodations, not to employee restrooms.

"Cases such as this present employers like Metra with difficult challenges and delicate situations which require a transitional period to accommodate not only the sensibilities and rights of the complainant but also those of other employees who work with the complainant," Metra wrote in its motion for dismissal.

Stevens said that he was told he could only use Metra's public men's room, due to the Human Rights Ordinance, but that the law did not entitle him to use the employee's men's room.

Stevens alleges that he tried to educate Metra about transgender people. He said he sent an email to the company's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office, listing links on transgender rights from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Human Rights Campaign and the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, among others.

He finally turned to the Center on Halsted for help, he said. They referred him to TCRA's Workplace Project, which advocates for LGBT in such cases.

Stevens' attorney, Jacob Meister, accused Metra of "urging the commission to come up with a new meaning of the ordinance."

"Metra is urging this Commission to create barriers to these protections based on biological sex which would in effect require employees to undergo procedures that are not commonly indicated by the medical community and would further require disclosure of private medical information," read Stevens' memo, opposing the motion from Metra dismiss his complaint.

Finally, Stevens said, his supervisors never told him what surgery they allegedly required before he could use the men's room.

He alleges that after he filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, he was unfairly subjected to disciplinary action.

According to a follow-up complaint filed with the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, Stevens was told on Sept. 29, 2010 that he was being relieved of his duties for making an "alleged dishonest statement." Stevens said he had a hearing but never heard anything on the allegations afterwards.

Stevens continues to work at Metra, but has transferred stations at his own request. After his transfer, he said, he was allowed to use the men's bathroom and locker rooms.

Meister said Stevens' case has been delayed for months now, and he is eager to see a resolution.


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