The nation’s first transgender fire chief says that city officials in Byron, Ga., harassed and later fired her after she came out.
Attorneys for Rachel Mosby made the claims in a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on June 28. They also disputed the city’s claims that Mosby (photo) was fired because of her job performance and argued that her work was “exemplary.”
Mosby began transitioning in fall 2016, came out in September 2017 and started “presenting entirely” as female in January 2018, according to Ken Barton, an attorney for Mosby.
“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 even members of the city council,” Barton wrote in the EEOC complaint. “Shortly after she came out, one councilmember 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.”
“Another councilman told Chief Mosby that the city could still use a performance review to get rid of her,” he added.
The city’s police chief and several city councilmembers continued referring to Mosby using male pronouns in their communications with her and to the media, according to the complaint.
“In an October 2018 meeting of department heads, the police captain intentionally referred to Chief Mosby as male a number of times, and when Chief Mosby corrected the captain, he responded ‘whatever dude,’” Barton wrote.
The city also enacted a hiring freeze the day after Mosby interviewed a transgender candidate for an open position, according to the complaint. The city allegedly allowed other departments to continue hiring.
Barton told Project Q Atlanta that they are unable to file a lawsuit against Byron in federal court until the EEOC addresses the complaint.
“However, we are looking forward to providing the EEOC with evidence of the City of Byron's discriminatory actions and pursuing Chief Mosby's claims both before the EEOC and in court if necessary,” he said.
City changes appeal process before firing
Mosby’s treatment “began to change drastically and dramatically” once she started doing media interviews in April, according to the complaint. Mosby talked with Project Q Atlanta about coming out in May.
The city reprimanded Mosby for buying a skirt for work with city money, even though there is a clothing allowance for such items in the city budget, according to the complaint. The city then changed its clothing policy after Mosby wore the skirt to work and required firefighters to wear their uniforms while on the job.
“The policy change appeared to target Chief Mosby, as the police chief and detectives remained exempted from this policy and allowed to wear non-uniform, professional attire,” Barton wrote.
In summer 2018, a reserve firefighter allegedly called Mosby a “he-she” to her face. Mosby got approval from the city attorney and city administrator to fire him over the incident and for a prior complaint of sexual harassment. But the city granted the firefighter’s request for appeal and reinstated him in November using new appeal procedures that had not been formally adopted yet, according to the complaint.
“Not only did the old policy not actually allow for reserve firefighters to appeal a termination, the city administrator told Chief Mosby that she could not appeal the reinstatement because of the new policy not yet in effect,” Barton wrote.
That new policy, which removed the ability of department heads to appeal disciplinary actions taken against them or other employees, was officially enacted in January. The city fired Mosby in June.
“[Mosby] is the first department head who has been discharged by the city over the last several years, and she is the first and only city employee who has been terminated without the right to request an appeal,” Barton wrote. “In hindsight, the city had taken countless actions in late 2018 through 2019 that made it apparent that the city planned to remove Chief Mosby.”
The city has continued to “humiliate” Mosby since firing her by referring to her using male pronouns, according to Barton.
Barton said the harassment, hostile work environment, disparate treatment and the firing due to Mosby’s sex and gender identity are violations of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Byron Mayor Pro Tem Michael Chidester disputed Mosby’s claims in an interview with the Macon Telegraph.
“Her termination didn’t have anything to do with her transgender status,” he said. “It had to do with the dissatisfaction overall with her performance as the fire chief (and) her inability to take proper direction as to the desires of council.”
Mosby told 41NBC in July that she wants her job back.
“I just love the people that I serve every day. I love my job. Ever since the first time I stepped on a fire scene, I love what I do,” she said. “And I love what me and my team have built there in Byron. And it’s been devastating to not have that.”