Library of Congress Sued for Sex Discrimination
A terrorism expert claims that a recent job offer was rescinded because of a planned gender transition:
The Right Person for the Job (WaPo)
The job candidate interviewing to be a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress seemed to have exceptional qualifications: a 25-year Army veteran and former Special Forces commander who spent a career hunting terrorists and often personally briefed the vice president, defense secretary or Joint Chiefs of Staff on sensitive operations.
The interviews and salary talks went well for David Schroer. A job offer followed, and he accepted. Then the new employee brought up one last item: Once work began, the name would be Diane, not David.
The job offer, Schroer said, was rescinded the next day.
Schroer, 48, recently began the medical transition to become a woman. The former Army Ranger believed that the library would be a welcoming place to make a gender transition: “It’s the United States government. It’s the Congress. It’s an eclectic, academic environment with a group of diverse people that all work together to get the job done.”
Schroer is to file a lawsuit today accusing the Library of Congress of sex discrimination and asking that the job offer be reinstated, said Arthur B. Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area.
“This is an important case, factually, because here’s a person who spent her entire career defending freedom for the entire country and is now being told she is unfit for a job with the government,” said Spitzer, who represents Schroer.
Spitzer said the case could face some obstacles. “Legal protection for transgender people is not at all clear. . . . Courts have not been as receptive as they need to be for providing discrimination protection for these people,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the library, Helen Dalrymple, declined to comment on any details of Schroer’s complaint because the case is a personnel matter.
Accordingly, the article provides very little information from the employer’s perspective. But I think it’s important to think through some possible reasons — besides outright discrimination — for the rescindment. Here are three:
- Misrepresentation: LOC could be less concerned that Schroer intended to undergo a gender change than that Schroer waited until the last minute to disclose the intention. It could have felt thrown off by the sudden disclosure, thereby raising questions about other parts of the candidacy. Did this person conceal any other (perhaps more relevant) information? Did this person exaggerate certain qualifications? In general, can we trust this person to be upfront about work-related issues, especially if a challenging situation arises? Or, upon hiring, will we need to monitor this person closely, given what happened during the job-offer process? Basically, LOC may have disliked the way that Schroer handled the situation, not so much the situation itself.
- Administrative Costs: Since the gender transition would presumably take place after Schroer’s first day of work, LOC would need to make changes along the way. On a very minor level, it would need to replace the name on all the employment forms. More significantly, healthcare coverage may become altered. Would the medical transition, for instance, require certain kinds of insurance that would be difficult to provide? LOC may figure that it would be best simply to rescind the job offer rather than go through the hiring, begin training, and become invested in the process — only to learn down the line that it cannot give adequate accommodations to its new employee. Beyond Schroer, LOC may wonder about its other staffers. Would they need sensitivity training? Could LOC afford it?
- Uncertainty: Will Schroer need time off for the medical transition? If so, when will the leave take place? Will Schroer require extensive counseling that might detract from work? Perhaps these issues are scheduled to occur at a particularly busy time, when LOC needs its employees to put in reliably long hours. Schroer may struggle to make such a commitment, so another candidate may be better-suited for the position.
I should note that I lack the legal expertise to assess the constitutionality of the case. I have limited knowledge of job discrimination. Indeed, the article provides few nitty-gritty details, and as we all know, that’s where the devil is. My analysis may differ from what actually took place between Schroer and LOC. But, again, the point is simply to think through the various issues that employers consider when making hiring decisions, since they often get lost when the situation has major political implications.