San Francisco

State Sues SF for Alleged Discrimination in Blocking Transgender Woman From Women's Bathroom

A state agency has sued the city of San Francisco for allegedly discriminating against a transgender woman by preventing her from using a women's restroom in a city building.

The lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing was filed in San Francisco Superior Court last week.

It alleges that an employee of the Office of Citizen Complaints told Tanesh Nutall on Feb. 18, 2016, that she could not use a women's restroom and was a "freak." The employee, Mary Ivas, was a civilian investigator for the office, according to the lawsuit.

At the time, Nutall was the TransLife program manager for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. She was attending a training program sponsored by the San Francisco Public Health Department and held in the building used by the Office of Citizen Complaints.

The name of the Office of Citizen Complaints was changed later in 2016 to the Police Accountability Department. The lawsuit names the department as well as the city as defendants.

The Oakland-based Transgender Law Center, which assisted Nutall with an initial complaint to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, said the incident caused Nutall severe emotional and physical pain and a nervous breakdown and resulted in her losing her job and her home.

In a statement, Nutall said that when she moved to San Francisco, she felt that she had finally found "a place where for the first time I could be safe as myself."

"So I was devastated and crushed when a representative of my new city stopped me from using the bathroom and called me a freak," Nutall said.

The lawsuit alleges violation of state civil rights laws. It asks for financial compensation for Nutall and a court order requiring the Police Accountability Department to provide a two-hour training annually for three years for all employees on how to avoid harassment and discrimination based on gender identity.

City Attorney's Office spokesman John Cote said, "San Francisco respects the rights of all individuals, and the department apologized to Ms. Nutall after the incident and provided additional training to the now-former employee in question.

"But it is our understanding that the factual allegations are not entirely accurate, and that the former employee did not violate Ms. Nutall's protected rights," Cote said.

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