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(Amicus) Case arguing that a customer’s prejudices are not grounds to terminate transgender employees because of their appearance


Utah Transit Authority (UTA) hired Krystal Etsitty as a bus driver in 2001. Her work record was spotless. After telling her supervisor that she was undergoing gender transition and would be appearing more feminine at work, Etsitty gradually began to wear makeup and jewelry. Soon after, her supervisors decided that Etsitty’s transition created an “image issue” for UTA, and they terminated her. Although UTA acknowledged that no one had complained about her performance or appearance, it claimed that the public would see Etsitty as “inappropriate.” The U.S. District Court for the district of Utah ruled against Etsitty, holding that Title VII does not protect transgender employees. Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Tenth Circuit court of Appeals in Etsitty’s support, pointing out that many courts have affirmed Title VII’s application to transgender employees and arguing that customer prejudices are not a legitimate basis for employment decisions.


A growing number of state and federal courts recognize that prohibitions on sex discrimination protect employees who are discriminated against because they are transgender. The District of Utah made a mistake when it characterized transgender employees as too “drastic” to be covered by the law. Furthermore, it is well established that potential customers’ prejudices never justify employment discrimination.

Lambda Legal’s Impact

This case, like Lopez v. River Oaks, advances Lambda Legal’s work to end workplace bias against transgender employees, an area where many transgender people are vulnerable to discrimination.

    • October 2005 Lambda Legal files amicus brief in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Krystal Etsitty, a Utah bus driver who was fired because she is transgender.