Metro Weekly

Judge dismisses transgender Georgia fire chief’s employment lawsuit

Rachel Mosby alleges she was terminated because of her gender identity after she transitioned on the job.

transgender fire chief
Byron Fire Department truck – Photo: Facebook

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the former fire chief of a rural Georgia city who alleges she was fired after she transitioned on the job and began wearing women’s clothes to work.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Tilman Self III of the Middle District of Georgia found that Rachel Mosby, the former fire chief of the city of Byron, Ga., has no legal standing to sue because of a technical flaw with the initial complaint she filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Self didn’t rule on the merits of the case, instead taking issue with the complaint alleging discrimination that she filed with the EEOC. The EEOC must determine if there is reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred, and must offer the parties the chance to resolve their dispute through the conciliation process, before any complainant can pursue legal action in the courts.

Self found that Mosby’s initial EEOC complaint, filed on June 28, 2019, failed to include a written sworn statement or notarized affirmation, reports ABC affiliate WJCL.

Mosby’s attorney tried to amend the complaint to include the missing document last July. But Self ruled that it was too late to amend the complaint because the EEOC had already closed Mosby’s case and she had filed suit against the city.

Self also threw out Mosby’s claims that Byron city officials had denied her due process and defamed her character. Mosby’s attorney, Kenneth Barton, said in a court filing on Feb. 2 that his client intended to appeal the dismissal.

Mosby, who had led the city’s fire department since 2008, was fired in June 2019. But she claimed that she had faced hostility from subordinates and town officials after she began wearing women’s clothing to work. She believes she was terminated based on her sex, gender identity, and her failure to conform to sex-based stereotypes, and sued in April of last year.

See also: Three North Carolina cities pass LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinances

A few months later, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender individuals from discrimination in employment based on their gender identity, on the grounds that it is a form of sex discrimination.

Following that landmark ruling, it appeared that lower courts, in trying to adhere to the precedent set by the Supreme Court, might be more sympathetic to cases involving transgender complainants alleging workplace discrimination, like Mosby. But the technicality cited by Self may have derailed the lawsuit.

Mosby subsequently filed a second lawsuit, arguing that she should be reinstated and compensated for back pay because only the mayor or city council, and not the city administrator, had the authority to fire her.

Mayor Michael Chidester and city officials continue to deny Mosby was fired due to her transgender status, instead citing performance issues as the reason for her termination.

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