Transgender veteran sues state, alleging sex discrimination in hiring

A transgender Air Force veteran has sued the state Department of Veteran Affairs, alleging sex discrimination when she was denied employment in 2015.

The Fife woman filed the lawsuit May 4 and in Pierce County Superior Court. She is seeking lost wages and damages for emotional distress, humiliation and “degradation” of her civil and constitutional rights. No dollar amount is mentioned in the lawsuit.

The News Tribune is not naming the woman because she said she fears she will face physical danger and discrimination if she is identified as a transgender woman.

Her suit contends the department violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination, failed to give a veteran preference in hiring and intentionally and negligently caused emotional distress.

Asked for comment on the suit, the veterans department provided documents noting that the woman had filed complaints against it with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state Human Rights Commission and both commissions investigated. The Human Rights Commission found there was not sufficient evidence to show the alleged actions had happened. The EEOC said it was unable to conclude the veterans agency violated the law.

The woman served in the Air Force from 1996 to 2005. She was deployed five times and served in operations in the Gulf War as well as in Iraq in the 1990's and early 2000's. She was released from active duty in 2005.

She applied for the position of desktop support information technology specialist position with the agency in February 2015 and completed two rounds of interviews in April 2015.

The next month she was told she had not been selected.

According to the suit, notes from the interview sessions state that after the second interview round, the woman and the candidate who ultimately was hired were considered equally qualified for the job.

The suit notes the woman has a bachelor’s degree in network and technology sciences and received the highest interview score of the candidates who applied for the position.

The male candidate the department hired had an associate’s degree and had a lower interview score than the woman's.

The suit also states that notes by one of the interviewers describe the woman as speaking with a “low voice,” indicating that “her transgender identity was discernible to the interview panel.”

Further, she did not receive help in the hiring process under state law that gives veterans some preference in landing state jobs.

The woman is represented by the Lavender Rights Project, a legal services provider that serves transgender, gender-non-conforming, lesbian, gay and bisexual clients.