Friday, June 21, 2013

Johnson County Settles with Trans Woman over Bathroom Dispute

Early this year, an administrative law judge ruled that a now-retired county deputy discriminated against an Iowa City woman named Jodie Jones by ordering her out of the bathroom. Jones announced that she planned to sue Johnson County unless the two sides were able to hammer out a settlement that included an admission of wrongdoing by the Johnson County Sheriff's Department. That settlement was reached two days ago.

As part of the settlement, Johnson County will pay Jones $7,000. Johnson County also agreed to pass a resolution stating that "public restrooms in county building are open to people based on their gender identity regardless of the person's gender at birth." I'm glad that they came to this settlement.

One thing that aggravated me was the following quote by Johnson County Board of Supervisors Chair Janelle Rettig. It's possible that she was badly quoted, but if not she should know better:
Johnson County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Janelle Rettig said Henderson, who has since retired, was a good employee who had to make a quick decision after being told a man was in the women’s restroom. She said Henderson chose wrong, but not with any intent to discriminate.

It wasn’t that this individual was treated poorly. It’s just that she was asked to leave the restroom,” said Rettig, a lesbian who pushed for gender identity to be included in state and local anti-discrimination laws.
The employee might not have meant to discriminate, but the administrative law judge already ruled that she had discriminated against Jones. The deputy was informed about the state law that allowed Jones to use the woman's restroom and then she said she didn't care about the law.

Jones herself has stated that she wouldn't have pressed forward with this lawsuit if she hadn't been treated badly. She said that she understood that transitioning can be confusing to the general public. But she felt that the "I don't care about the law" attitude expressed by the employee went over the line. So it's disingenuous to state that Jones wasn't treated poorly.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors plans to vote on this resolution next week at their next public business meeting. And I'm sure some training exercises amongst the county employees will follow in the future.

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