The former fire chief of Byron, Ga., says she was dismissed for being transgender — and now she’s suing the town for discrimination.
Rachel Mosby was fire chief in the small central Georgia town from 2008 until 2019. She was fired last June, 18 months after she began presenting as a woman at work, the Associated Press reports.
Her colleagues and supervisors were supportive at first, but it soon became clear “they didn’t want somebody like me in that position, or any position with the city,” she told the AP.
She was ordered to wear a uniform at all times, even though when presenting as male, she had worn civilian garb — suits and ties, she said. Some associates insisted on referring to her with male pronouns, and a reserve firefighter who was dismissed for using a slur to her face was reinstated, she added.
Mosby’s suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, says her firing was “based on her sex, gender identity, and notions of sex stereotyping.” She has lost wages and benefits, and suffered harm to her reputation, according to the suit.
The city of Byron contends she was let go for poor performance. Her termination letter does not mention her transgender identity but says she let applications for business licenses pile up, attended only a few sessions at a fire chiefs’ conference and therefore wasted city funds, and did not maintain her certification as an arson inspector. But Mosby says she expanded and improved the department.
Mosby filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which took no action but cleared the way for her to sue. Under President Barack Obama’s administration, the EEOC, a semi-independent federal government agency, took the stand that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity constituted sex discrimination, banned under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC, because of its autonomy, has held to that interpretation, even as other arms of the federal government have opted for a more narrow view since Donald Trump became president. When the Supreme Court last October heard cases involving anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace, the Department of Justice argued that Title VII did not apply. In one of the cases, former funeral director Aimee Stephens makes a claim similar to Mosby’s — that she was fired after coming out as transgender. The court has yet to issue its ruling.
The Equality Act, currently pending in Congress, would amend the Civil Rights Act to make clear that it does prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It would also amend laws involving discrimination in housing, credit, and other venues.
Byron Mayor Michael Chidester told the AP he had not seen Mosby’s suit but that the city has contended ever since her EEOC filing that her claims of discrimination had no basis in fact.