Court ruling in Kenda Kirby case 04/03/07
GLAA to Mayor: Please settle Kenda Kirby caseGAY AND LESBIAN ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE OF WASHINGTON
Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty
Government of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mayor Fenty:
We urge you to act promptly in response to the April 3rd Opinion by D.C. Superior Court Judge Geoffrey M. Alprin finding probable cause against D.C. Fire & Emergency Medical Services personnel and management in the case of EEO Expert Kenda Kirby. A copy of the ruling is online at www.glaa.org/archive/2007/alprinrulingonkirby0403.pdf.
Ms. Kirby raised issues of a hostile work environment and discrimination based on sex/gender, sexual orientation/gender identity and personal appearance/physical characteristics. With Judge Alprin having reversed an Office of Human Rights (OHR) decision and remanded the case, the city can spare the expense of a further drawn-out process by settling the case now.
The Tyra Hunter Human Diversity Training Series, which Ms. Kirby was hired to implement, was created as part of the 2000 settlement over the wrongful death in 1995 of Tyra Hunter, a transgender woman who died from injuries sustained in an auto-pedestrian accident. But FEMS management willfully blocked the training. The facts of the case reveal a culture of bias and corruption. Emergency responders are paid to serve people from all walks of life in their times of crisis, not indulge in taxpayer-funded discrimination.
Judge Alprin found substantial evidence to support Ms. Kirby’s claims against former Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson, former FEMS Diversity Management Officer Fredreika Smith, and current FEMS General Counsel Theresa Cusick—including creation of a hostile work environment, blockage of resources and procurements necessary for the training, and retaliation.
The Court’s assessment was blunt: “The record reflects that this constant stream of hostility manifested itself in a number of ways … The sum total of this evidence supports findings of a history and culture of homophobia and sexism in the D.C. FEMS. This ethos, which characterized Petitioner’s work environment, created impediments to her responsibilities and cover for her colleagues to belittle her.”
As Ms. Kirby states, “No one should be harassed or targeted with crime simply because of who they are, or who they’re perceived to be. I hope the judge’s ruling helps others and I hope the Fire Department can change from the top down.”
Mr. Mayor, the violations in this case occurred under your predecessor. You have a new Fire Chief, OHR Director, and Attorney General. This is an opportunity for you to move the city forward by doing as follows:
- Instruct Attorney General Linda Singer to make a prompt and just settlement with Kenda Kirby.
- Renew the District’s commitment to fully resource and implement the Tyra Hunter Human Diversity Training Series at FEMS.
- Reauthorize and support the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allies-FEMS Advisory Committee with oversight of the Tyra Hunter Training.
- Instruct all D.C. government agencies to implement high quality cultural competency training.
Thank you for your attention to this. We look forward to continue working with you to make this a better city for all of its people.
Barrett L. Brick
cc: Attorney General Linda Singer
OHR Director Gustavo Velasquez
FEMS Chief Dennis Rubin
Councilmember Phil Mendelson
Christopher J. Dyer