At the time of the October 2007 incident, Blatt was employed by Manpower Inc., a global staffing-services agency with a branch office in Pottsville.
Manpower placed Blatt at Sapa Industrial Extrusions, a manufacturer of aluminum products in Cressona, where she earned about $10 an hour as a temporary factory worker.
Blatt worked at Sapa for about a month, before allegedly being told by a supervisor that she wasn’t physically well enough to work at the job and was no longer needed at Sapa, she said.
After being discharged from Sapa, Blatt said she personally visited Manpower’s branch office in Pottsville, in an attempt to return to work.
Irene Kudziela, branch manager of Manpower’s Pottsville office, allegedly told Blatt that a letter from her surgeon documenting her gender-reassignment surgery — along with a photograph of her genital area — would be necessary before she could return to Sapa.
Blatt, 28, said she found the request “repugnant” and “disgusting,” and declined to comply. She viewed the request as a form of sexual harassment, she added.
“I was shocked and disgusted,” Blatt said. “It felt like I was being reduced to a mere sex object. I was trying to work there in a dignified and private manner, but my dignity and privacy were constantly being violated.”
Kudziela declined to comment for this story.
Frank Koller, human-resources manager at Sapa, also declined to comment.
Blatt filed bias complaints against Sapa and Manpower with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, alleging wrongful discharge based on sex and disability. She said her disability is gender dysphoria.
The complaints remain under investigation, said Shannon Powers, a spokesperson for the PHRC.
Bethany Perkins, a spokesperson for Manpower Inc., said she couldn’t comment on the specifics of Blatt’s complaints. But she said Manpower is committed to ensuring a safe and non-exploitive work environment.
“The biggest thing to remember is that we’re absolutely committed to the safety and security of our workforce, including the transgender members of our workforce,” Perkins said. “We’re committed to having diversity in our workforce.”
In the aftermath of the incident, Blatt said she’s been denied future work opportunities at both Manpower and Sapa. Now unemployed, she said she wants to return to work at Sapa.
“I’m hoping I’ll be hired permanently by Sapa, possibly as a diversity trainer,” Blatt said. “I want these companies to stop looking at people like me as if we’re the worst evil there is. We’re valuable human beings who have a lot to offer these companies. Given the chance, we could be turned into great advocates for these companies.”
In response to Blatt’s allegation that she’s been banned from future employment at Manpower, Perkins said: “That would happen with anyone we went through a termination process with. That’s our policy for anybody that’s been terminated. What’s under question is whether it was a wrongful termination.”
Rue Landau, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, said she couldn’t comment on the specifics of Blatt’s complaints.
But, she said, the PCHR has developed a workplace-training program dealing with transgender issues, which is available to area employers upon request.
“We partner with local trans groups when training employers,” Landau said. “We provide guidelines and advisory training materials, which would be helpful to any employer dealing with this issue.”
Landau said the PCHR offers the service free of charge. “If we can, we’ll go anywhere,” she added. “We’re fully willing to help on this.”
Timothy Cwiek can be reached at (215) 625-8501 ext. 208.