The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has increased its focus on protecting transgender employees’ rights, with help from courts across the country.
Unlike gender, race, age, or disability, transgender is not a protected status under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, yet three recent actions filed by the EEOC and the courts’ decisions in those matters make clear that employers will be held accountable for discriminatory treatment of transgender individuals in the workplace.
Last month the EEOC filed a lawsuit against check printing and financial services provider Deluxe Financial Services Corp. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, the plaintiff claims she was unfairly discriminated against when her employer refused to allow her access to the women’s restroom after she informed her employer that she was transgender.
This case joins two other actions filed by the EEOC in September 2014. In those cases, both plaintiffs were transgender women who were fired shortly after they notified their employers of their intent to present as women rather than men. In the first case, filed in a Florida federal court, the employer settled for $150,000, while the other matter is proceeding to trial after a federal court in Michigan refused to dismiss the action based on the employer’s argument that transgender is not a protected status.
Courts have held that taking action against transgender individuals is sex stereotyping and is actionable under Title VII. In support of these rulings, the courts have ruled that transgender individuals are entitled to the protections that include:
- The right to work in an non-hostile environment free from harassing remarks or comments based upon a person’s gender expression,
- The right to be referred to by the pronoun or title to which they relate,
- The right to accommodations such as using their gender-identified restroom or uniform.
Discrimination or harassment based on a person’s gender identity or gender expression is illegal. If you believe you have been the victim of this or any kind of discrimination in your workplace, the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Employment Litigation Group are here to help – please contact us today to discuss your situation.