text
 
banner

Gender Identity: A New Challenge For Schools

[July 22, 2013]  Recently, a first-grader in Colorado who was born a boy but identifies as a girl was awarded the right to use a girls’ restroom at school.  In its decision, the Colorado Division of Civil Rights noted that the school’s prohibition on the first-grader’s use of the girls’ restroom had created an environment that was “objectively and subjectively hostile, intimidating or offensive.”  Similar cases have surfaced across the country.  For example, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court recently heard a similar case: the question was whether a boy who identifies as a girl is entitled to use a girls’ restroom at school, under Maine’s human rights law.

As these cases illustrate, gender identity issues at schools can create both practical and legal challenges.  Some of the questions that consistently arise in these cases are: which bathroom can the student use? Which pronoun should be used when referring to the student who is of one gender, but identifies with another?  School policies and practices that do not properly address gender identity issues can expose schools to potential legal liability.  At least thirteen states (i.e., California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) and the District of Columbia have passed laws that specifically prohibit bullying, harassment, intimidation or discrimination on the basis of gender identity in schools.

We recommend that schools carefully evaluate applicable laws in the school’s jurisdiction.  We also recommend that schools update their policies related to anti-discrimination, anti-bullying and anti-harassment to account for potential gender identity issues.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding gender identity issues or the applicable state law that governs your policies and practices related to gender identity.

Will Hannum Weighs In On How To Draw The Line Between Tough Management And Harassment

[November 8, 2012] William E. Hannum III was featured in Dawn Lomer’s November i-Sight blog article on “How To Draw the Line Between Tough Management and Harassment.”  Click here to read Will’s recommendations for determining the difference between harsh management practices and harassing behavior, and view some examples of negative impacts of risky management styles.

Effective Harassment Policies And Practices Can Be An Employer’s Best Defense

With all of the cautionary tales about what can happen when employers don’t comply with employment laws, it is nice to hear about an employer whose compliance was rewarded. In Wilson v. Moulison North Corp., a recent opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the Court affirmed summary judgment for an employer that took appropriate precautions to prevent harassment in the workplace. In Wilson, the Court found that the employer had an appropriate policy against harassment, followed its policy, and as such, could not be found liable for the harassment of an employee.  Read more.