EEOC Files First Lawsuits to Protect Rights of Transgender Workers

EEOC Files First Lawsuits to Protect Rights of Transgender Workers

by Kathryn Kimball

In September, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed the first lawsuits seeking to protect the rights of transgender workers under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The two cases are similar but were filed in different federal courts – one in Michigan and the other in Florida. The Michigan case was filed on behalf an embalmer and funeral director, who was fired after telling her boss she was transitioning from male to female and began wearing female clothing. The Florida case was filed on behalf of a Lakeland Eye Clinic employee who was also fired after telling her boss about her male to female transition. The employee was allegedly discriminated against when she began wearing women’s clothing and makeup. In April 2012, the EEOC broadened the definition of “sex discrimination” in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination against transgender people. Specifically, the new language prohibits “gender identity discrimination”. This means that employers may not use gender stereotypes as a basis for discrimination.

EEOC Enforcement Guidance. Sex-Based Discrimination (Oct. 17, 2014), available at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sex.cfm. See Claire Zillman, First-ever EEOC lawsuits boost transgender workplace rights, Fortune, (Sept. 26, 2014, 5:49 PM), http://fortune.com/2014/09/26/transgender-workplace-rights-eeoc/; Emma Margolin, EEOC sue companies over anti-transgender discrimination, msnbc, (Sept. 25, 2014, 5:08 PM), http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/federal-agency-sues-companies-over-anti-transgender-discrimination; Selena Hill, EEOC: Lawsuits Filed to Protect Transgender Workplace Right, latin post, (Sept. 27, 2014, 4:59 PM), http://www.latinpost.com/articles/22453/20140927/eeoc-files-lawsuits-to-protect-transgender-workplace-right.htm.

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