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Press Release

NEW JERSEY APPEALS COURT FINDS TRANSGENDER DOCTOR
COVERED BY STATE NON-DISCRIMINATION LAW

July 6, 2001

Contact Information:

Paisley Currah,
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
Brooklyn College of The City University of New York
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210
Email:
Tel:

Shannon Minter, Esq.
Senior Staff Attorney
National Center for Lesbian Rights
870 Market Street, Suite 570
San Francisco, CA 94114
Email:
Tel:

 For release: July 6, 2001

 NEW JERSEY APPEALS COURT FINDS TRANSGENDER DOCTOR
COVERED BY STATE NON-DISCRIMINATION LAW

            On July 3, a New Jersey appeals court found that a transgender physician may pursue sex and disability claims against a former employer that terminated her when she began to undergo the process of sex reassignment.  According to Jennifer Levi, staff attorney at the Boston-based Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), and board member of the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, "this decision reflects a growing trend across the country recognizing that there are no legal reasons to exclude transgender people from coverage under state and federal non-discrimination laws."

            In the case, Enriquez v. West Jersey Health Systems, Docket No. A-2017-99T5 and A-5581-99T5, the Plaintiff Carla Enriquez alleged that her employer, West Jersey Health Systems, fired her from the position of medical director of an outpatient treatment facility shortly after she began taking medically necessary steps to transition from male to female.  Ms. Enriquez is a transsexual woman who was diagnosed with gender identity disorder in June, 1997.

Ms. Enriquez was hired by West Jersey Health Systems in November, 1995.  According to the New Jersey Appeals Court, she began her external transformation in September, 1996 and was shortly thereafter confronted by senior level employees regarding their discomfort with that process.  In July, 1997, she was notified by her employer that her contract was being terminated, effective in 90 days.  In October, 1997, she was given a termination letter, told not to return, and her meetings with patients were cancelled for the next three months. 

Based on the employer’s actions, Ms. Enriquez filed a discrimination claim under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination alleging that the termination was based on her sex and disability, among several other claims.  A trial court dismissed her claims saying that transsexualism was not a recognized disability and that transgender people are excluded from coverage under the state non-discrimination law.  The appeals court disagreed and reinstated her claims. 

According to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, this decision is the fourth from a state appellate court recognizing that transgender people are protected by state sex discrimination laws.  In addition, two federal circuits have ruled that federal sex discrimination prohibitions extend to transgender people.  It also reflects a growing number of jurisdictions that have declined to adopt the exclusion for transgender people found in the Americans with Disabilities Act under state disability laws.

For more information on the latest trends in litigation and legislation on behalf of transgender people, visit the Transgender Law and Policy Institute's home page at http://www.transgenderlaw.org. Email the Transgender Law and Policy Institute and we will get you in touch with a cutting-edge litigator or policy expert who works directly in this area. He or she will provide you with background information on trends in litigation and legislation affecting transgender people, comments on recent court cases, and updates on legislation protecting transgender people.