Impact Fund and Legal Aid at Work Settle Workplace Harassment Claims of Transgender San Francisco Police Sergeant
Sergeant Flint Paul, a career officer with the San Francisco Police Department, began his gender-affirming transition more than fifteen years ago. In 2006, after eleven years with the Department, he came out in his workplace as transgender and requested to be addressed by his chosen name “Flint” and with male pronouns. Over the next fourteen years, multiple superior officers have misgendered him, calling him by his former name and using female pronouns in private, in front of his colleagues, and over the department broadcast radio. On multiple occasions, his superiors “outed” Sergeant Paul’s transgender status to colleagues who were unaware of his gender identity. An earlier complaint resulted in a settlement in 2012, but the misgendering did not stop. Multiple superior officers continued to misgender Sergeant Paul over the following years, causing him significant distress and anxiety and interfering with his ability to perform an important public service for his community.
“When I would come to work, I would feel sick to my stomach in anticipation of being publicly misgendered,” said Sergeant Paul. “This experience was humiliating, embarrassing and ultimately very isolating.” His experience is not unique. In a 2017 survey, over 38% of transgender people reporting personally experiencing slurs because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Repeatedly misgendering a transgender or gender non-conforming person can be particularly damaging. Sergeant Paul describes it as, “like death by 1,000 cuts. Each cut is cumulatively worse, until you feel like you have no strength left to go on.”
Refusing to use a transgender worker’s chosen name and appropriate pronouns violates California law, which forbids harassment or discrimination against a transgender employee because of their gender identity. “The harmful misgendering that Sergeant Paul experienced created a hostile work environment and interfered with his ability to perform his job. That’s harassment, and it is illegal,” said Lindsay Nako, the Impact Fund’s Director of Litigation and Training.
Today, Impact Fund and Legal Aid at Work are pleased to announce a landmark settlement with the City and County of San Francisco on behalf of our Sergeant Paul. As part of the settlement, the San Francisco Police Department will adopt explicit prohibitions against misgendering and other robust protections for transgender and gender non-conforming police officers. The City will also conduct training on investigating workplace complaints filed by transgender city employees for staff at the Department of Human Resources.
We worked closely with Sergeant Paul and the City of San Francisco to craft precedent-setting reforms protecting transgender and gender non-conforming employees at the San Francisco Police Department. The Department will issue a “Gender Inclusion Policy,” an official Department Bulletin that carries the force of law and requires that all employees must be addressed by their chosen name and appropriate pronouns. The Bulletin recognizes that even a single incident of misgendering can cause harm and declares that intentional or repeated misgendering violates the Department’s anti-discrimination and harassment policy and can lead to disciplinary action, including termination. The Bulletin also confirms that all Department employees may use the facilities and wear the attire that correspond to their gender identity. This new policy complements existing Department rules for interacting with transgender and gender non-conforming community members.
“The new Department Bulletin makes clear that all transgender and gender non-conforming employees are entitled to equal and inclusive treatment, and that misgendering has no place in the workplace,” said Elizabeth Kristen, Director of the Gender Equity and LGBTQ Rights Program at Legal Aid at Work.
The new Department Bulletin is especially important in light of our country’s ongoing work to implement greater police accountability and community reforms. Over 58% of transgender people report being harassed or mistreated by members of the police, and about the same number say they are uncomfortable calling the police for help. It is critical for our police departments to look like our communities, which means fostering a welcoming environment for all officers, especially transgender officers. A police force that supports transgender officers will be more responsive to the needs of our most vulnerable communities.
The Impact Fund and Legal Aid at Work are grateful to support Sergeant Paul’s efforts to create a more inclusive police department in San Francisco. “I believe that transgender people have the right to be free of harassment and discrimination in the workplace and in all sectors of life,” said Sergeant Paul. “Standing up for myself in this case is not only for me, but for all transgender people.“
*PHOTO: Sergeant Paul: “Standing up for myself in this case is not only for me, but for all transgender people.“