Terminated Georgia Chief Claims Gender Discrimination

A Georgia fire chief who was terminated after she revealed that despite being born a male she identified as a female, has filed suit alleging gender and disability discrimination. Rachel Mosby filed suit against the City of Byron yesterday in US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

The suit claims that when she identified as a male, she was a successful fire chief bring the department from an ISO Class 7 to Class 4 in four years. That changed when she began presenting “entirely as female” in January 2018. According to the complaint:

  • In or around Fall 2016, she began her medical transition in order to allow herself to properly present as female.
  • Initially, Chief Mosby attempted to transition inconspicuously; however, by Summer 2017, Chief Mosby realized that other employees of Defendant were circulating rumors about Chief Mosby and her appearance.
  • In September 2017, Chief Mosby felt that it was necessary to inform the employees that she supervised of her transition.
  • Soon thereafter, Chief Mosby came out to the City Administrator, the Mayor, and her fellow department heads.
  • Thereafter, Chief Mosby presented entirely as female beginning in or around January 2018.
  • While she initially thought that this news had been well-received, Chief Mosby often experienced microaggressions and other intentional harassment from her employees, fellow department heads, and members of the City Council.
  • As an example of one such comment subtly expressing prejudice of which she was subjected was shortly after she came out when Councilman Michael Chumbley told Chief Mosby that he did not have a problem with her transition but that he would if she showed up to work in a dress.
  • Around the same time, the then-Mayor Pro Tem Michael Chidester also told Chief Mosby that the City could still use a performance review to get rid of her.
  • Shortly after coming out, Chief Mosby was conducting interviews for an open position when she happened to interview a qualified candidate who was transgender.
  • The City Council learned of this interview and enacted a hiring freeze the day after this candidate was interviewed.
  • Despite the hiring freeze, Defendant still allowed other departments to continue hiring, such as the Public Works and Police Departments.
  • Coincidentally, the hiring freeze was lifted shortly after Defendant fired Chief Mosby.
  • In Spring 2018, Chief Mosby sought to purchase professional attire that is considered more-traditionally female. She spent approximately $600 on clothing, which had been approved in advance by the appropriate authority.
  • However, when Chief Mosby stopped by the Municipal Complex and was seen wearing a skirt for the first time, the City issued her a written reprimand for allegedly making an unauthorized purchase.
  • Defendant had no uniform policy governing Chief Mosby’s dress at the time of the citation.
  • Defendant also required that Chief Mosby pay back the money.
  • Subsequently, Defendant’s City Council passed a “uniform policy” on May 14, 2019.
  • Around the same time that Chief Mosby had used her clothing allowance, another female employee of Defendant, who does not identify as transgender, was permitted to make similar clothing purchases, was not disciplined for such purchases , and was not required to pay any money back for the purchases.
  • Moreover, after this “uniform policy” was enacted, other public safety supervisors, such as the Command Staff of the Police Department and its detectives, were exempted from the policy and permitted to wear non-uniform, professional attire.
  • The “uniform policy” and subsequent exception such that it seemingly only applied to
  • Chief Mosby evidences a problem that the City Council had with Chief Mosby wearing
  • traditionally-female attire, just as Councilman Chumbley previously suggested that they would.

Chief Mosby was terminated on June 4, 2019. According to the complaint, the termination “was the first indication that the City ever gave Chief Mosby that she was going to be terminated or that her job was in jeopardy in any way.” She disputes the stated reasons for her termination, and claims the real reason was a “discriminatory animus based on her sex, gender identity, and notions of sex stereotyping.”

The complaint includes two counts of disability discrimination. Chief Mosby alleges the city failed to accommodate her disability that “includes conditions in her right ankle and lower back lumbar and conditions in her left hip, left wrist, and mid-back thoracic caused by an on-the-job injury.”

The complaint also alleges a due process violation under the US Constitution, a due process violation of Georgia’s constitution, and defamation. Here is a copy of the complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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