A transgender Army civilian, who was restricted from using a female bathroom in the workplace and was called "sir" by colleagues, faced repeated instances of discrimination and humiliation at the hands of the Department of the Army, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel announced Thursday in a ruling that is being hailed as a landmark decision.
When Tamara Lusardi, a software specialist with U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center in Redstone, Ala., made the transition from being male to female, some co-workers refused to acknowledge her as a woman, said the OSC, an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency.
In 2010, the Army veteran received a court-decreed name change and obtained a passport and driver's license that identified her gender as female. During that time, she dressed as a woman. However, she agreed to use a separate bathroom facility in her workplace to allow co-workers time to adapt to her new gender. On occasions, when the separate bathroom was out of order, she used the women's bathroom instead. That prompted supervisors to counsel her against such activity, which was a violation of Lusardi's rights, the Office of Special Counselsaid.
From the start, Lusardi should have been free to use the women's bathroom, the OSC said. In addition, repeated cases of workers calling Lusardi, "he" or "sir" added to a hostile work environment, the OSC said. She also was given fewer job responsibilities at that time.
Lusardi "experienced these effects on a daily basis for many months, and they served as a constant reminder that she was deprived of equal status, respect, and dignity in the workplace," the OSC decision said.
The OSC concluded that the Army's actions were "sufficiently frequent, pervasive, and humiliating to constitute discriminatory harassment."
In its decision, the Office of Special Counsel recommended diversity and sensitivity training for supervisors and employees at the Army facility in Alabama.
"I am so grateful that justice is finally being served," Lusardi said in a news release issued by her legal team at the Transgender Law Center, an Oakland, Calif.-based organization that works to end gender discrimination.
"As a disabled veteran, I take great pride in my role protecting our soldiers from harm. Like anyone else, I just want the freedom to be myself at work."