Righting the Injustice of Transgender Discrimination

Lynn Conway became a victim of transgender discrimination after she confided in her supervisor, telling him she was undergoing a transgender transition. This was in 1968 when she was working at IBM.

While her immediate supervisor was supportive, IBM’s chief executive was not. She had worked at IBM for four years, since her graduation from the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University in 1964.

She was working with the IBM architecture team, and they were at the brink of creating a computer that would operate at top speed. At the same time, she wrote that she was “undertaking a gender transition to resolve a terrible existential situation.” This was a problem that had bothered her since childhood. Her immediate supervisors devised a plan for her to take a leave from IBM and return as a new employee with a new identity. However, IBM executives feared a scandal would occur if the truth were discovered.

Consequently, she was fired.

Lynn Conway went through with the transgender medical surgery and restarted her career with a position at Memorex in 1971 and then worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in 1973. She went on to become a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan in 1985.

It wasn’t until 1999 that she revealed the fact of her transgender identity publicly. She had discovered that computer scientists were researching the IBM period when she had been part of the project. Rather than having someone else reveal her transgender transition, she wanted to disclose it herself, in her own words.

IBM’s Recognition of Lynn Conway

Last month, IBM awarded Ms. Conway (now 82 years old) a lifetime achievement award for her pioneering work in computers. They also apologized for her job termination.

U.S. Legal Changes on Transgender Discrimination

In June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered a landmark decision, ruling that an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Bostock v. Clayton Cty., Georgia, 140 S. Ct. 1731, 1734, 207 L. Ed. 2d 218 (2020).

Four months later, IBM issued their apology and gave Lynn Conway the recognition she deserved.

Have You Faced Transgender Discrimination?

What occurred when Lynn Conway was fired would be unlawful today. Nevertheless, sometimes employers violate the law. If you’ve been a victim of discrimination, call the Law Office of Peter A. Romero today.

We are glad to address your concerns. Simply give us a call at (631) 257-5588 or contact us online.