UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
April 24, 1987
C.G. Studios, Inc.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'NEILL
Plaintiff Wilma Wood instituted this suit in the Court of Common Pleas claiming that defendant C. G. Studios discriminated against her on the basis of sex in violation of Section 5 of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 955(a). Specifically, she claims that defendant failed to promote her and terminated her employment solely because it learned that she had undergone surgery to correct her hermaphroditic condition prior to working for defendant. Plaintiff also alleges that she has exhausted her administrative remedies.
Defendant removed the case to this court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Defendant moves for summary judgment; a response and a reply have been filed. I will grant the motion because I predict that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania would find, as a matter of law, that discrimination on the basis of gender-corrective surgery does not constitute discrimination on the basis of sex under Section 5(a) of the PHRA.
Section 5(a) of the Act provides:
It shall be unlawful discriminatory practice, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification . . .:
(a) For any employer, because of the race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin or non-job related handicap or disability of any individual to refuse to hire or employ, or to bar or to discharge from employment such individual, or to otherwise discriminate against such individual with respect to compensation, hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment, if the individual is the best able or most competent to perform the services required. . . .
No Pennsylvania Court has addressed the issue of whether discrimination against a person who has undergone gender-corrective surgery could expose an employer to liability for sex discrimination under the PHRA.
The plain meaning of the term "sex", as it is used in the statute, would encompass discrimination against women because of their status as females and discrimination against males because of their status as males.
The history of the legislation and the caselaw show that the statute was intended to achieve equality between the sexes by preventing this type of discrimination.
The eradication of sex discrimination in employment was added as a purpose of the PHRA by a 1969 Amendment.
Significantly, the Legislature did not add sex discrimination to Section 5(a)'s list of unlawful discriminatory practices until 1978. There is no accompanying legislative history regarding the meaning of discrimination upon the basis of sex. However, the 1978 amendment appears to have been motivated by Pennsylvania's adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment, Pa. Const., Art. I, § 28 (1971) and enactment of implementing legislation, 1 Pa. C.S.A. § 2301 (1978). See PHRC v. Mars Community, 488 Pa. 102, 107, 410 A.2d 1246, 1248 (1980) (discussing Section 5(i), to which "sex" was added by the same amendment). Section 2301 and the E.R.A. Implementation Comment evidence the clear purpose of achieving equality between the sexes. For example, the purpose of Section 2301(c) is to insure "that the work of both women and men carries the same protection for their families". The purpose of Section 2301(d) is to provide "a general statement on which to base future interpretation of" statutes which limit employment to one sex in certain jobs. Given employment conditions at the time of the amendment, achieving equality primarily meant providing women with the same opportunities as men. For example, the statutes cited in the Comment which require reinterpretation are those which limit certain types of employment to males. Similarly, the example of how a licensing board can combat sex discrimination is by granting women cosmetologists the authority to treat men's hair.
The caselaw under the PHRA evaluates sex discrimination in terms of discrimination against women because of their status as females. The cases cited by the parties involve discrimination due to stereotypic concepts about a woman's ability to perform a job or due to a condition common to women alone. E.g., General Electric Corp. v. PHRC, 469 Pa. 292, 315, 365 A.2d 649, 661 (1976) (assumption based upon undifferentiated, stereotypic appraisal of women as a class is plainly discriminatory); Anderson v. Upper Bucks Co. Area Vocational Technical School, 30 Pa. Cmwlth. 103, 113, 373 A.2d 126, 131 (1977) (practice of excluding pregnancy, a disability unique to women, from disability coverage violates Section 5(a)).
There is no showing that the Act was intended to remedy discrimination against individuals because they have undergone gender-corrective surgery. In the absence of such a showing, I cannot conclude that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania would give the term "sex" as used in the Act anything but its plain meaning.
I am further persuaded that the Supreme Court, if presented with the issue, would not include plaintiff within the language of the PHRA, by the established caselaw arising under Title VII. The Commonwealth Court recognizes Title VII cases as persuasive authority on the subject of sex discrimination due to the substantial similarity between Section 2000e-2(a)(1) of Title VII and Section 5(a) of the PHRA.
Leechburg Area School District v. PHRC, 19 Pa. Cmwlth. 614, 618 n. 2, 339 A.2d 850, 853 n. 2 (1975).
The Title VII cases unanimously hold that Title VII does not extend to transsexuals nor to those undergoing sexual conversion surgery, and that the term "sex" should be given its traditional meaning. See, Grossman v. Bernards Township Board of Education,  11 E.P.D. (CCH) P 10,686 (D.N.J. 1975), aff'd memo., 538 F.2d 319 (3d Cir.) cert. denied, 429 U.S. 897, 105 S. Ct. 2023, 85 L. Ed. 2d 304 (1976); Ulane v. Eastern Airlines, 742 F.2d 1081, 1085 (7th Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1017, 85 L. Ed. 2d 304, 105 S. Ct. 2023 (1985); Voyles v. Davies Medical Center, 403 F. Supp. 456, 457 (N.D. Cal. 1975), aff'd memo., 570 F.2d 354 (9th Cir. 1978); Sommers v. Budget Marketing, Inc., 667 F.2d 748, 750 (8th Cir. 1982); Holloway v. Arthur Andersen & Co., 566 F.2d 659, 662 (9th Cir. 1977); Powell v. Read's Inc., 436 F. Supp. 369 (D. Md. 1977); Terry v. E.E.O.C., et al., 35 BNA F.E.P. Cas. 1395 (E.D. Wisc. 1980).
These cases appear equally applicable to those who undergo gender-corrective surgery.
Plaintiff argues that the PHRA is a remedial statute and should be liberally construed. Remedial statutes, however, should be liberally construed only to achieve their purpose. Plaintiff has not provided this Court with any evidence that the PHRA's purpose includes remedying discrimination against people because they have undergone gender-corrective surgery.
AND NOW, this 24th day of April, upon consideration of defendant's motion for summary judgment, and response and reply thereto, it is hereby ORDERED that said motion is GRANTED. Judgment is entered in favor of defendant and against plaintiff.