Our Republican governor would sign transgender-rights bill

Gov, Charlie Baker said today he is ready to sign a transgender rights bill if it passes in its current form in the state House of Representatives amid an acrimonious debate across the United States about the issue.

Baker, a socially liberal Republican, had come under fire this year for refusing to say whether he would approve the bill, which would ban discrimination against transgender people in public restrooms and other public buildings. It passed the state Senate last month.

"No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity," Baker said in a statement. "I would sign the House version in its current form should it reach my desk."

The Massachusetts House is due to vote on the measure on Wednesday. It is expected to pass by a wide margin in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

The House version of the bill differs from the version passed by the Senate in that it directs the state attorney general to issue guidelines to law enforcement on how to handle people who claim transgender rights "for an improper purpose."

That language is a nod to one of the main concerns of opponents of people using bathrooms or locker rooms that do not correspond with their birth gender - that sexual predators will claim transgender status to access potential victims.

The measure would make liberal-leaning Massachusetts the 18th U.S. state to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

The issue of transgender rights has become the latest front in America's culture wars. Some supporters of the Massachusetts measure described it as a rebuke to a law put in place in March in North Carolina prohibiting people from using bathrooms that do not correspond to the sex on their birth certificates.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Bill Trott)

Long awaited Hyde Park restaurant finally opens - at least, partially

City Councilor Tim McCarthy reports he was the first customer today at Antonio's Bacaro on Fairmount Avenue. He adds that currently just the bar at the Italian restaurant is open.

Joseph and Sonia Garufi, owners of Sophia's Grotto in Roslindale Square, have been working to restore the space - where Dottie's and the Hyde used to be - for more than a year and a half.

Citizen compliment of the day: Mmm, mmm, moth balls!

A relieved South Boston citizen is loving the moth balls scattered around outside on G Street by the high school:

Kudos to whomever put the moth balls around the area of 95 G Street. I actually enjoy the scent of the moth balls. It is not toxic, unlike the dog excrement that these moth balls are preventing. Please keep up the good work!

Court: Worker sometimes has the right to search employer's databases for proof of discrimination

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that a lawyer fired from a downtown firm will get to make her case to a jury that she was terminated because of her gender. A lower-court judge had dismissed Kamee Verdrager's lawsuit against Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, but the state's highest court today reinstated the gender-discrimination parts of the case.

In its ruling, the court broke new ground for Massachusetts, saying that in certain proscribed circumstances,a worker cannot be fired for accessing company records - as was done to Verdrager - because that is "protected activity" under the state's anti-discrimination laws.

Verdrager searched Mintz, Levin's document system after she had filed a gender-discrimination case with the state and after the firm had demoted her. She turned over some of the documents she found to the outside lawyer she had hired to press her case.

The court said that since she had already filed a gender-discrimination complaint with the state, what she did was "protected activity" rather than the violation of her "ethical duties" the firm said she was guilty of in a complaint to the state Board of Bar Overseers.

The justices noted that after her "self-help discovery," she only turned the documents over to her own lawyer, not to other firm employees. And it dismissed the lawfirm's client/attorney privilege argument, ruling that even lawyers have the same rights at employees at other sorts of companies and that strict enforcement of client/attorney privilege in such cases would strip them of their rights under state law.

The ruling also documented some of the issues at the law firm - which came around the same time a female attorney in the firm's Virginia office was winning an anti-discrimination lawsuit against it:

For instance, defendant Schroeder's May, 2006, evaluations criticized the plaintiff for not being available for certain emergency assignments, and his March, 2006, electronic mail message noted that "[t]his is not a job where you can come and go as you please." Yet, the plaintiff maintains in an affidavit there were "many occasions when [she] would be looking for Mr. Schroeder during business hours and would learn that he and [a particular junior male associate] were at the gym." Similarly, when the plaintiff was nursing her first child, Schroeder evaluated her negatively for "leaving [the office] no later than 5[:]30," even as Schroeder "was sending [the aforementioned male associate] home" earlier than the plaintiff because he had "a wife and kid at home."

Second, there is evidence that Cohen attempted to undermine the plaintiff after she complained about his behavior, which may allow an inference that the plaintiff's perceived performance deficiencies resulted in part from Cohen's animus rather than from innate inadequacy. While Cohen initially complimented the plaintiff's work, this changed following her August, 2004, complaints, when she was told by various individuals that Cohen was "bad-mouthing" her. In October, 2004, Cohen asked a client to submit a written complaint against the plaintiff, which he then forwarded to Gault, the ELB section manager, and Starr, the human resources director. Cohen stated in his deposition that he had never previously solicited a written complaint against an associate. In January, 2005, Cohen gave the plaintiff a lengthy assignment that did not count toward her quota of billable hours, which the plaintiff maintained in her deposition was more extensive than parallel assignments given to other associates. In the wake of these incidents, a number of firm members, including Gault, told human resources staff during a meeting in February, 2005, that the plaintiff and Cohen could not work together and that Starr should seek to hire an attorney with qualifications similar to the plaintiff's.

downtown law firm discriminated against a female lawyer - and that she did nothing wrong by scanning its document database for proof.

Running a bar in Boston must take a few years off your life

A couple of reports from this past holiday weekend:

Vanyaland reports the bassist for a band playing O'Brien's in Allston last night tried to set his instrument on fire - with the help of some lighter fluid. No, it wasn't the Flaming Lips.

Sgt. Luke Taxter at D-4 reports a large fight inside the Cask 'n Flagon early Sunday ended with "1 female with cut to face and officers closing the bar early."

Fight against West Roxbury pipeline expands to rest of galaxy

A pair of people dressed as members of the Rebel Alliance this morning locked themselves to one of the steel plates covering the West Roxbury pipeline trench on Grove Street, delaying work on the project until police and firefighters could cut them loose.

It marks an escalation of the protest against the high-pressure natural gas pipeline from Westwood to West Roxbury - it's the first time protesters did not simply stand up and walk with police to prisoner transport wagons for the ride to booking at District E-5.

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