Transgender Officer Sues Port Authority, Says He Was Called ‘It’

A transgender police officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sued the agency, claiming he was referred to as “it” and subjected to other taunts and discrimination.

Michael McConaughey, who has worked as a Port Authority officer since 2013, alleges that his colleagues and supervisors repeatedly referred to him by his former name and delayed allowing him to switch restrooms and locker rooms for more than six months. In October, a colleague referred to him as “it,” a “transvestite” and “whatever it is,” according to the suit, filed Sunday in federal court in Manhattan.

McConaughey said he lodged a series of complaints with his supervisors and the Port Authority’s human resources office, but that the complaints “had no obvious impact.” A supervisor retaliated against him for raising concerns about the Port Authority’s handling of his transition by complaining about him to his union, according to the lawsuit.

“Cases like this are important for sending the message that anti-trans discrimination is just as unlawful and should be taken just as seriously as any other form of harassment or discrimination,” McConaughey’s lawyer, Daniel Kirschbaum, said in an interview. “It is shameful that a governmental agency is engaging in unlawful discrimination, harassment and retaliation.”

The Port Authority, which oversees tunnels, bridges, ports and other transportation links, said it couldn’t comment  on pending litigation.

Suits like McConaughey’s have proliferated since the Supreme Court ruled last year in Bostock v. Clayton County that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bars employers from discriminating against workers because they are gay or transgender. More than 300 cases have cited Bostock since the June 2020 decision, according to Bloomberg Law.

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to Alaska Airlines last month referring to Bostock and accusing the airline of discriminating against nonbinary employees by forcing them to choose between “male” and “female” uniforms. The carrier said it would implement gender-neutral hair policies and let employees order their uniforms online. 

Meanwhile, 33 state legislatures have pursued limits on LGBTQ rights, including bills that would bar transgender students from sports teams unless the teams match the gender they were assigned at birth. 

McConaughey has requested monetary damages to be determined at a jury trial .

The case is McConaughey v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 21-cv-06137, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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