Noel Cummings, a transwoman, alleged in a lawsuit that her employer, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (“RTA”), discriminated and retaliated against her based on her race, gender, and gender identity. Cummings has worked at RTA for 27 years; her current title is Manager of Service Quality. Cummings is African American and was born male in the state of Alabama. In 2001, Cummings underwent a surgical procedure anatomically changing her sex to female. Cummings claims that since 2009, RTA denied her equal pay and a series of promotions because of her race, gender, and gender identity.
One of Cummings’ claims is that RTA violated Ohio public policy when it failed to promote her because of her gender identity. Ohio recognizes a cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, a so-called Greeley claim. The court found, however, that Ohio does not recognize a claim for failure to promote in violation of public policy. Cummings also argued that Cleveland Codified Ordinance 667.05 provided a clear public policy against discrimination based on gender identity. The court found that a Greeley claim only exists where “an employee is discharged or disciplined in contravention of a clear public policy articulated in the Ohio or United States Constitution, federal or state statutes, administrative rules and regulations, or common law. . . .” Because city ordinances are not part of this list, they not are potential sources of public policy that can support a wrongful discharge claim, the court concluded. The court allowed other claims to proceed, including a Equal Pay Act claim and a state law sex discrimination claim.
We are not aware of other cases involving a transgender plaintiff that have asserted a state Equal Pay Act claim. This is an interesting approach to address irrational discrimination against transgender people. Gender Identity Watch supports the right of all people to work in an environment free from irrational discrimination. Transgender people have every right to work in an environment where they are afforded equality opportunities, including pay raises based on performance, merit, or other non-discriminatory factors.