By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 20, 2008
A federal judge ruled yesterday that a former special forces commander was discriminated against when officials at the Library of Congress revoked a job offer after learning she was transitioning from being a man to a woman.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2005 by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Diane Schroer after she was denied a job as a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress's Congressional Research Service.
"It is especially gratifying that the court has ruled that discriminating against someone for transitioning is illegal," Schroer, 52, of Alexandria, said in a statement released by the ACLU. "I knew all along that the 25 years of experience I gained defending our country didn't disappear when I transitioned, so it was hard to understand why I was being turned down for a job doing what I do best."
U.S. District Judge James Robertson found that officials at the Library of Congress had no legitimate reason to deny Schroer the job and said their decision violated the Civil Rights Act's prohibition against sex discrimination.
"Schroer's case indeed rests on direct evidence, and compelling evidence, that the Library's hiring decision was infected by sex stereotypes," Robertson wrote.
Robertson compared Schroer's plight to that of someone denied a job because she was converting from Christianity to Judaism.
Schroer is a former U.S. Army colonel who retired in 2004 after directing a 120-member classified organization that tracked and targeted international terrorists. She worked briefly in the private sector and then applied for a job at the Library of Congress as a man, David.
"She was well qualified for the job," Robertson wrote, adding that Schroer received the highest interview score of 18 candidates. She was offered the job in December 2004 as she was going through the transition to become a woman.
Before starting the job, she had lunch with the woman she thought would be her future boss. Schroer then disclosed she was becoming a woman. The official, Charlotte Preece, rescinded the job offer the next day.
Preece testified during a trial in August that she rescinded the job offer because she was concerned Schroer would not be able to receive a timely security clearance. Robertson said that reason and others didn't hold up.
No hearing has been set to determine the remedy for the discrimination.