That well-endowed Canadian teacher -- what would've happened here?

This is a G-rated post. PG at worst.

Toronto-area shop teacher Kayla Lemieux -- you know, the one with the famous Z-cup breasts -- has been placed on a leave of absence now that the New York Post has reported that she is actually flat-chested and presents as a regular guy most of the time when she's away from the workplace.

The local school board, which defended Ms. Lemieux for a long time, has taken a lot of grief from parents, who complained that Ms. Lemieux's appearance was inappropriate for the workplace and especially for someone who spends the day with adolescent kids. After the Board saw the photos of Ms. Lemieux presenting as a man, they placed her on leave. (Ms. Lemieux denies that the man in the photos is her.)

Although it has been alleged that her breasts are prosthetic, Ms. Lemieux insists that they are real and that she has gigantomastia, a rare medical condition in which the breasts grow abnormally large and apparently can keep on growing indefinitely. She also says that she is not transgender but "intersex," meaning that she was born with both male and female sex organs.

Anyway, according to the Post, Ms. Lemieux has neither gigantomastia nor (female) breasts.

So, that's the recap of a story that's been going on for quite some time. But what if Ms. Lemieux were a teacher in the United States, and a U.S. school board received the same complaints about her appearance?

I see two issues under U.S. (federal) law: Sex discrimination under Title VII, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Let's take a look at each.

Sex discrimination under Title VII. As you can see from the photos in the linked article, Ms. Lemieux wasn't just extremely endowed -- she also dressed in a way that revealed Every. Intimate. Outline. (I won't go into detail because I promised this post would be no worse than PG-rated, but if you follow the link, you'll see what I mean.) From a sex discrimination standpoint, a U.S. school board could not take action against her just because of the size of her breasts. But it almost surely could require her to cover up more than she was doing. This would be especially true in a school setting, but I think even an employer in an all-adult workplace could do the same.

Some have argued that an employer who requires women to be "decent" above the waist is engaging in sex discrimination unless it enforces the same standard with men. Even so, it would be just about impossible for someone to come up with a male similarly situated to Ms. Lemieux at all -- much less a male who was both similarly situated and treated more favorably.

Conclusion: In the United States of America, the school board could have required Ms. Lemieux to dress more modestly, and doing so would not have violated Title VII.

Assuming that Ms. Lemieux is transgender (which, again, she denies), of course she is protected from discrimination based on that status as well, thanks to the Supreme Court's 2020 decision in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC. But even though the school would not have been allowed to discriminate against her for being transgender, it could have required her to dress more modestly and appropriately -- just as it could have if she'd been a biological female.


Disability discrimination. Based on what I learned about gigantomastia while writing this blog post, I'm willing to assume that it would qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It sounds like it is a relatively long-term condition that is substantially limiting. Treatment can include breast reduction surgery, or even a mastectomy if the tissue won't stop growing. I also think that, arguably, having Z-cup breasts could be substantially limiting in itself. 

But -- Ms. Lemieux admits that she's never been diagnosed. So, to the extent that a reasonable accommodation were needed, a U.S. school board could require her to get a note from her health care provider confirming that diagnosis and suggesting possible accommodations. If, as now appears to be the case, Ms. Lemieux's breasts were really not real, she would either have to (1) refuse to go to her health care provider, in which case she could be denied an accommodation for refusing to cooperate in the process, or (2) go to her health care provider, who would have to admit that she did not have a disability, in which case she could be denied an accommodation. 

There have also been court decisions saying that gender dysphoria is a disability, but since Ms. Lemieux doesn't allege that she has gender dysphoria, we'll move on.

Assuming for the sake of argument that Ms. Lemieux really does have gigantomastia, which we'll assume is a disability, or that she is "regarded as" having a disability, I think the outcome under the ADA would be the same as under Title VII. No, the U.S. school board would not be able to take action against Ms. Lemieux because of the size of her breasts (or, to put it in a more ADA-friendly way, because of the manifestation of her disability). But, yes, a U.S. school board could still require her to dress in a way that did not expose every "contour" of her bosom.

The parents of Ms. Lemieux's students wanted the school board to adopt a teacher dress code, but the board did not, fearing that it would violate the Ontario Human Rights Code. (The board relented on this point last month, before it placed Ms. Lemieux on leave.)

Would the parents have been better off if this had happened in Buffalo or Detroit?*

*Both New York and Michigan have their own civil rights laws, and I've been talking only about federal law. So the outcome could be different under the state laws.

PS - My apologies to the New York Post for the stock photo showing the Daily News.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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