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Transgender woman wins historic lawsuit against former employer

myfoxtampabay.com - Evan Axelbank, FOX 13 News
A woman from St. Petersburg is saluting Bruce Jenner for speaking out about his transgender journey.

One part of Brandi Branson's fight is over; seven months after she alleged Lakeland Eye Clinic fired her because she was transgender.

"Seeing all this in writing, in black and white, basically said, we acknowledge that," Branson said.

Lakeland Eye still insists she was fired for non-discriminatory reasons, but will pay her $150,000 for back pay and emotional distress.

She said other employees ridiculed her when she began transitioning in 2011.

It's the first time federal civil rights lawyers have taken on this kind of case and won.

"It shouldn't be as bad for the next person as it has been for me," Branson said.

She watched Bruce Jenner's interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC last week, which is still grabbing headlines,

"We share a common journey," Branson said.

She appreciated that he also found the courage to speak out.

"We want to be able to express and live the identity of who we really are," Branson said.

She says emotional interviews like Jenner's help humanize the situation. She hopes it will help get anti-transgender discrimination laws passed in states like Florida, where they currently have little hope, and little recourse.

"This is one more thing to spur on the politicians and influential leaders to make sure that this wrong gets righted," Branson said.

Branson plans to do her own outreach by speaking to employers and students about transgender issues.

As part of the settlement, Lakeland Eye had to promise to re-train its employees.

"I am in a place where I never imagined I would be," she said. "I am learning to adapt in my heart and my mind to do it because I do believe the value to the next generation will be there."

Lakeland Eye Clinic declined to comment on the settlement.

 

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