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Former Boise Library employee files suit in federal court over LGBTQ discrimination claims

A former Boise Public Library employee and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint in federal court against the City of Boise,  two library administrators, and an HR staffer seeking compensation for discrimination. 

On June 11, the ACLU of Idaho filed a complaint in District Court on behalf of Jax Perez alleging the city, Library Director Kevin Booe, Boise Public Library Public Services Manager Sarah Kelley-Chase, and Boise’s HR Compliance Manager Sarah Martin discriminated against them for their non-binary transgender identity during a series of disciplinary actions in mid-2019

[Boise Public Library looking to the future after turbulent few years]

‘They are showing themselves’

Perez, who resigned their position at the library in 2020, said the case is necessary to hold officials responsible and seek a more inclusive workplace for future LGBTQ employees. They said the city’s lack of action to resolve the case during Pride Month while banners bearing the transgender flag are hung in downtown Boise is “complete hypocrisy.”

“The virtue signalling is really difficult for someone like myself who has experienced first hand discrimination and the two years in which they have doubled down and sunk their heels into the discrimination instead of particpating in an accountability process,” Perez said, growing emotional. “The fact they just keep turning me away and not even discussing the matter…they are showing themselves for who they really are underneath the facade that they show on the outside.”

Boise spokesperson Bonnie Shelton declined to comment on the matter because of pending legal action, but she said the City has not retained an outside firm to work on the case at this time. 

Case claims constitutional rights violation

The complaint argues the City of Boise violated Perez’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech and equal protection, causing them to suffer ongoing “emotional distress and psychological damage” due to the city’s actions. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act protects transgender individuals from sex discrimination.

The actions alleged by Perez took place under former Mayor Dave Bieter’s administration, and Mayor Lauren McLean’s administration oversaw the city’s response to the investigation from the Human Rights Commission.

In the complaint, Perez requested monetary damages to compensate for the “deprivation of their rights” and punitive damages from Booe, Kelley-Chase and Martin. They are also asking the court to order the City of Boise and the three individuals named in the suit to declare they violated Perez’s constitutional rights and pay attorney’s fees. 

What now?

In May, the Idaho Human Rights Commission concluded its investigation into the matter and sided with Perez, finding there was probable cause the city discriminated against them. Their lawyer, ACLU’s Ritchie Eppink, told BoiseDev at the time this decision was “significant” because he said the commission rarely reaches a similar conclusion in such cases. 

This finding kicked off a conciliation process where the City of Boise and Perez’s lawyers can work toward a settlement, or it is an opening for a federal court discrimination case to begin. Eppink said there is no deadline for the City of Boise and Perez’s lawyers to settle.

There is no hearing set as of now. 

“I think that case will sit there for the moment to see if conciliation is successful,” Eppink said. “At the moment we are waiting to hear back from the city and those conversations, but we’ll see what happens.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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