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News - August 4, 2005
St. Anselm says misconduct, not transgender, led to firing
By GARRY RAYNO
Union Leader Staff
CONCORD ・An attorney for St. Anselm College claims a former senior computer programmer engaged in serious workplace misconduct that led to his firing.
Robert Blanchette, 53, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in May claiming he was fired after he told college officials he was a transsexual and would be returning to work as a woman.
In an answer to the suit filed July 29, college attorneys say Blanchette, who filed the suit as Sarah Blanchette, did not exhaust all internal remedies before going to court, waited too long and failed to give a reason.
They also say the suit is barred by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment requiring the separation of church and state.
The college's attorney, Sean Gorman of Sheehan, Phinney, Bass & Green, said "clearly those are issues that may be part of this litigation. We've just filed the answer so it's very premature to go into any more detail."
And the college claims Blanchette was a term employee who was not renewed and an employee at will who could be terminated at any time.
In his suit, Blanchette claims at all times he was qualified for his position, the college discharged him because of his sex and he suffered emotional as well as economic harm because of his firing. The college denies all of those allegations in its filing.
The college denies Blanchette's contention college officials were told and understood when he returned from a vacation he would be "adopting and expressing the appearance, attire, behaviors and mannerisms traditionally associated with females."
Blanchette's attorney, Bennett H. Klein of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders of Boston, said the college's reply to the suit is a formality and its contentions are no surprise.
In the suit, Blanchette claims he met March 9, 2004, with Adam Albina, Department of Information Technology director, and Patricia Schuster, vice president of administration, and told them of being a transsexual, his medical treatment, psychological counseling and his plans to take the necessary steps to complete his gender shift.
In a letter he gave Albina and Schuster, Blanchette said he had completed the initial steps of the treatment and was ready for the next phase, which was to live full-time as a woman for a year, after which he would decide if he would have surgery to complete the gender change.
He told the college officials when he returned from his planned vacation May 17-31, 2004, he would be Sarah Elizabeth Blanchette.
Blanchette received a letter from Schuster April 14, 2004, putting him on administrative leave for the remainder of his administrative agreement with the college, which expired June 30, 2004.
|| News ||
August 05, 2005
Transgender employee fired for misconduct, not sex change, college says
A Catholic college in Concord, N.H., says it fired a senior computer programmer for engaging in serious workplace misconduct, not because the man was planning to undergo sex-reassigment surgery and return to work as a woman. Robert Blanchette, 53, sued St. Anselm College in federal court in May claiming he was fired after telling the college he was transgender.
The college's lawyer would not offer details on the misconduct allegation but argued that Blanchette failed to exhaust internal remedies before going to court. The college also said the suit was prohibited by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the constitution, which requires the separation of church and state. The lawyers also said the college could fire him since he was an employee at will who could be terminated at any time. Blanchette said he was qualified for his position and that the college discharged him after he met with officials to tell them of his plans for surgery. (AP)
College 'Immune' From Transsexual's Lawsuit
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: August 4, 2005 8:00 pm ET
(Concord, New Hampshire) A Concord college has told a judge that it cannot be sued by a transsexual for wrongful dismissal because it is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
Sarah Blanchette, 53, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in May claiming she was fired after telling officials at St. Anselm College she was a transitioning transsexual. (story)
Blanchette, who was known as Robert at the time, told the college that she was going on a two week vacation and would be returning as a woman.
Her suit says that she followed up the meeting with a letter saying she had wrestled with her gender for several years and finally came to accept she was transgendered. In the letter she asked for compassion and support.
A month later Patricia Shuster, the vice president for administration at Saint Anslem told her she was no longer welcome on campus.
In a subsequent letter Shuster told Blanchette "As you know, you recently disclosed to senior college administration your transsexual status. Upon consideration, you are immediately relieved of your duties.''
In its response to the suit, St. Anselm's lawyer told the court this week that the suit should be dismissed because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment require the separation of church and state.
The college brief also says that Blanchette was fired because she had engaged in "serious workplace misconduct" and that she did not exhaust all internal remedies before going to court.
The brief further noted that because the college considered Blanchette a part-time or temporary employee she could be terminated at any time.
But, for seven years before announcing she would be transitioning Blanchette was given glowing reports for her work as a computer programmer.
She is represented by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the organization that won same-sex marriage rights in Massachusetts.