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COLUMBIANA CO. Transsexual sues Salem company



Published: Wed, August 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The plaintiff is neither entirely female nor male, the federal lawsuit says.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- An East Liverpool resident is suing a Salem company in a fight over gender and asks that transsexualism be recognized under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

But a spokesman for Carriage Hill said all the company wanted was a letter from a doctor declaring that the person is a woman.

Selena D. Johnson, whose address is not listed, filed the lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court, Youngstown. Johnson is asking for $821,000 in damages from Carriage Hill and its human resources director, Brian Wess.

The suit says Johnson, 26, is a "pre-operative transsexual woman" suffering from gender identity disorder, which is a psychological condition.

Johnson was born male but since 1993 has lived as a woman, according to "her prescribed treatment plan and the requirements and protocols of the international standards of care for transsexuals," the suit says.

In June 1998, legal action was taken to change Johnson's "stereotypically masculine name" to Selena.

Reason for suspension

Johnson was hired at Carriage Hill in March 2001. When company officials received a complaint shortly afterward that Johnson was using both the men's and women's restroom facilities at the Salem meat packing plant, Johnson was suspended pending an explanation from a doctor.

Spokesman Mark Sullivan said the company requested a letter in which the doctor would say which restroom and locker-room facilities Johnson should use.

Johnson's driver's license, which Johnson was required to provide a copy of for employment, indicated gender as male.

"All we were asking for was clarification," Sullivan said. "You can't use both, and you can't keep going back and forth."

Johnson's attorney, Randi A. Barnabee of Macedonia, sent a letter explaining that Johnson was "neither entirely male nor entirely female," and that it was most appropriate for Johnson to use the women's facilities -- or in the alternative, a unisex restroom.

In the meantime, the company insisted that Johnson use the men's facilities because its personnel records -- specifically the driver's license -- indicate Johnson is male.

Johnson refused to return to work under those conditions and was ultimately fired for failing to show up for work for three consecutive days, the suit says.

bjackson@vindy.com




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