A lawsuit from Cole Fowlkes, a transgendered iron worker, against her union has been given a second life after an appeals court decision Friday which overturned an earlier move to toss it.
“For the foregoing reasons, we vacate the judgment of the District Court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” the decision from the appeals court noted.
Fowlkes, who was born female, alleged that Local 40 of the Ironworkers union discriminated against her on the basis on her biological gender. Though the Southern District Court of New York decided to dismiss the lawsuit on the ground that Fowlkes failed to use all administrative remedies available to her, the appeals court found the determination to be wrong.
“It is well established that Title VII requires a plaintiff to exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court,” the decision continued. “The weight of precedent demonstrates that administrative exhaustion is not a jurisdictional requirement; rather, it is merely a precondition of suit and, accordingly, it is subject to equitable defenses.”
Fowlkes argued that starting in 2005, the union refused to refer her to jobs in which she was qualified simply because she was born female. This included jobs that Fowlkes claims she was requested for.
In order to exhaust all administrative remedies, Fowlkes filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2007. Depending on the agency and complaint, the process may include filing a petition, going to a hearing, and using the agency’s internal appeal process.
Fowlkes claims the problems worsened when she filed the complaint with the EEOC. After the commission decided not to go forward with the case, Fowlkes pursued her own lawsuit but failed to file it within the 90 day window she was given, resulting in the failure to exhaust all administrative remedies.
“He lost every case so far,” a spokesman for Local 40 told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I’ll leave it to the jury.”
The district court noted to TheDCNF that decisions by the appeals court may take roughly 48 hours to process and therefore will probably not be received until Tuesday. After the case is processed, it is unknown how long it will take before it is seen by a judge.
“Fowlkes believes that a worker should be judged by the quality of his work, not by whether he conforms to gender norms,” the appeal also stated.