Her supporters at the Denver Veterans Medical Center came in droves after Rachel Irwin, a transgender employee, was fired from her job as a graveyard custodian for “inappropriate conduct and unwelcomed comments, containing sexual overtures, toward a coworker,” according to a letter she received from the hospital’s human-resources department.
Irwin’s termination stems in part from an incident in a break room in March 2017, when she says she showed a photo of herself in pajamas to a co-worker.
After the incident, she was told to “cease and desist” all communication with that co-worker — and colleagues say she did so — until she was unexpectedly fired on August 15. Since then, Irwin has drawn support from many different departments in the Veterans Affairs hospital as she appeals the process, alleging that she was discriminated against because she is transgender.
“This doesn’t make any sense. I am one of their best employees — and they want to just get rid of me over a conduct thing that I have overcome and changed, and wasn’t as inappropriate as they made it out to be,” Irwin says. “I just think they didn’t want me in there because of who I am.”
Irwin was hired at the hospital in October 2016 as a housekeeping aid in the Department of Environmental Management Services. She maintained the hallways, offices, bathrooms and other facilities in the mental-health ward, where veterans experiencing mental-health crises receive medical treatment.
In nearly twenty letters of support, co-workers say that Irwin also went “above and beyond” to clean many other departments in the hospital, as well as the offices of administrative and clinical staff, while working with…
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