There is so much ignorance and unfounded bias surrounding transgender discrimination that even experienced employment law attorneys may shy away from these cases.
In a step forward for protecting the rights of persons born with gender identities not matching their physical characteristics, in Macy v. Department of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821 (April 20, 2012), the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) held that transgender (gender identity) discrimination constitutes sexual discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Now the EEOC is following through with their ruling by filing their first Transgender Discrimination cases. It’s about time.
The EEOC’s first such cases were filed separately against private employers Lakeland Eye Clinic and RG Harris Funeral Homes. The Harris employee had worked as a funeral director and embalmer since 2007. In 2013 she gave the company a letter saying she was transitioning from male to female and would soon present as a woman. Harris fired her two weeks after she submitted the letter, deeming her proposal “unacceptable,” according to the EEOC. Lakeland Eye Clinic also dismissed an employee after she began to present as a woman, the EEOC alleged. We will be following these cases closely.
Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals encounter discrimination, abuse, ostracism, and oppression with alarming frequency. Until recently, federal and state law offered them little to no protection for basic human rights. The decision by the EEOC, expanding the definition of sexual discrimination to incorporate discrimination based on gender identity, and these two cases are positive steps.
In California, effective January 1, 2012, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act made the law more clear by making “gender identity” and “gender expression” their own enumerated protected categories.
Although broad protection is provided by California and federal law, the fact remains however, that transphobic attitudes are far too prevalent and many of our lawmakers are far too willing to overlook the systematic discrimination faced by transgender individuals.
The Rutten Law Firm, APC recognizes the difficulties and indignities many transgender individuals face at each and every turn. We have experience successfully representing employees that have been victimized by transgender discrimination. If you feel that you have been the target of discrimination based on gender identity at work or that you have been fired in retaliation for complaining about discrimination, consultation with an experienced attorney can inform you of your potential remedies and rights under existing law.
The Transgender Law Center is an excellent resource for these issues. Transgender Law Center – Employment