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Human rights commission finds reasonable grounds UPS discriminated against transgender woman

The Maine Human Rights Commission voted unanimously to find that UPS in South Portland discriminated against the woman, prompting her to resign

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Human Rights Commission voted unanimously this month to find reasonable grounds that UPS discriminated against a transgender woman on the basis of her gender and sexual orientation while she worked at the UPS facility in South Portland.

Commissioners also voted to find no reasonable grounds to believe the Teamsters Local #340 discriminated against the woman, as recommended by MHRC investigator Milo Gitchos.

The complainant, a straight, transgender female, worked as a pre-loader at the South Portland UPS facility in August 2019, when the discrimination occurred, and was a member of Teamsters Local Union #340.

In his report, Gitchos wrote that after she was hired in August 2018, the woman "suffered from bullying, teasing, and harassment by co-workers" including being asked if she was a man, called a transvestite, and refused medical care after suffering a workplace injury.

The woman reported each incident to human resources and the union, and although the company told the investigator all complaints were investigated and "cured," the investigator found no action was taken and the harassment was allowed to continue.

The investigator wrote, "It is notable here that complainant was specifically assigned to work with the coworker who had been her primary harasser, including by asking to see her breasts and referring to her gender identity disparagingly."

The woman resigned on Aug. 9. 2019. UPS told the investigator that the complainant resigned voluntarily and that no discrimination took place, while the union said she was not a member.

The complainant's attorney, Stephen Sucy, did not return emails or phone calls this week.

Boston attorney Jack S. Gearan, who represents UPS, referred a phone call about the case to Matthew O'Connor, senior manager of media relations for UPS.

“One of UPS’s core values is people should be respected and protected in the workplace," O'Connor said in an email. "We provide our employees with several ways to report and resolve issues with confidence, and we do not tolerate comments or actions that are considered harassment or discriminatory.”

Gia Drew, program director for Equality Maine, lauded the decision.

"I'm glad the system is working and the commission is acting finding against this company," she said. "Everyone should feel free to go to work and not be subject to harassment in the workplace regardless of their sex or gender."

As is standard, the MHRC will invite the two parties to try to resolve the dispute through conciliation. If a settlement cannot be reached, the complainant can sue in superior court.