What makes a man? It’s an age old question, and one that is getting revisited thanks to a recent lawsuit filed in New Jersey. New Jersey is among a small number of states who offer protection against employment discrimination for transgendered individuals, and a treatment center for people recovering from addictions may have run afoul of those guidelines.
Urban Treatment Associates hired El’Jai Devoureau last June for a part-time position as urine monitor. Mr. Devoureau’s job was to ensure that individuals in recovery, when coming for drug testing, did not replace their urine with clean samples from other donors, a job that must be held by a man. Mr. Devoureau did not face any obstacles during the hiring process, but on his second day at work his boss approached him, saying that she had heard he had not always been a man. When asked if he had undergone surgery, Mr. Devoureau said he did not have to answer- that it was personal. Mr. Devoureau was then fired.
This is the first case in the country to be brought for discrimination based on a transgendered person’s sex. The employer, Urban Treatment Associates, maintains that the employment decision was not based on “any discriminatory intention.”
This firing should make most people nervous, if not outraged. We as a society continue to give employers rights to use our personal information against us, rights that would be protested when the government interferes with them. Why do we give employers this power? Why should a supervisor be allowed to ask whether a man has always been physically a man, when there is no evidence that he is not a man now? And why should that invasiveness be rewarded with the power to take away that man’s job?