Did an Upstate College Illegally Fire a Campus Doctor for Treating Transgender Students?

Transgender individuals continue to face discrimination and hostility from many parts of our society. In addition to bullying and harassment, transgender persons must also overcome significant obstacles in order to obtain proper health care. As an ongoing employment discrimination dispute from upstate New York illustrates, these issues raise important questions regarding basic principles of civil rights.

NYSDHR Investigation Finds “Probable Cause” to Support Discrimination Complaint

In May 2017, the Rochester Institute of Technology fired a staff doctor who worked at the school's Student Health Center. The doctor was administering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to a number of transgender students. HRT is used to assist transgender individuals permanently in permanently transitioning.

HRT is a long-accepted medical treatment and the doctor in this case received extensive training at RIT's expense in its use. According to the doctor, the day after a new director assumed control over the Student Health Center, she was fired for treating transgender students with HRT. Although RIT had no written policy prohibiting such treatments, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, the doctor's termination letter said, “The Student Health Center's practice prohibits prescribing hormone therapy for the purpose of gender transition.”

In a letter to RIT's student newspaper following the doctor's firing, the director of the Student Health Center maintained that “the administration and on-going monitoring associated with hormone therapy for gender transition has been, and continues to be, beyond the scope of practice of the Student Health Center.”

The doctor understandably disagreed with RIT's decision and filed a complaint with the New York State Department of Human Rights (DHR). Such complaints are a preliminary step towards pursuing a formal employment discrimination lawsuit. Last December the DHR issued its final report, which was recently published by the Democrat & Chronicle.

According to the findings made by the DHR's investigator, there is “probable cause to support the allegations of the complaint.” Specifically, the investigator corroborated the doctor's position that there was no written policy preventing her from providing HRT to transgender students. Furthermore, there was “no documentation to establish” that the doctor was insubordinate and refused to follow purported orders to stop providing treatments. To the contrary, the investigator noted that the doctor received a positive performance evaluation just one month before her summary dismissal.

That said, the investigator said there were additional issues that required a “full public hearing” into the doctor's complaint before it could be conclusively stated that her firing was an act of illegal discrimination. According to the Chronicle & Democrat, RIT and the doctor are “in settlement negotiations,” which would negate the need for a formal hearing or lawsuit.

Have You Been a Victim of Gender Identity Discrimination?

The charged political climate surrounding transgender rights sometimes obfuscates the fact that there are real individuals who suffer as the result of discriminatory acts. If you have faced harassment or discrimination in the workplace due to your gender identity and need guidance from a qualified New York employment attorney, contact the Law Offices of Nisar Law Group, P.C., at (646) 760-6493 today.


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