EEOC rules Trans workers are protected by Title VII
 

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posted Friday, April 27, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 17

EEOC rules Trans workers are protected by Title VII
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled on April 24 that Title VII, the federal sex discrimination law, protects employees who are discriminated against because they are Transgender.

In its unprecedented decision, the EEOC concluded that 'intentional discrimination against a Transgender individual because that person is Transgender is, by definition, discrimination 'based on & sex' and such discrimination & violates Title VII.'

The EEOC is the federal agency that interprets and enforces federal employment discrimination law, and this decision marks the first time it has issued clear guidelines on Transgender discrimination.

The EEOC ruling came in response to a complaint filed by the Transgender Law Center on behalf of Mia Macy, a Transgender woman who was denied a job as a ballistics technician at the Walnut Creek, California, laboratory of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

An Army veteran and a former police detective, Macy applied for the position as male and was told that she virtually was guaranteed the job. She was exceptionally qualified for the position, having a military and law enforcement background and being one of the few people in the country who had already been trained on ATF's ballistics computer system.

After disclosing her gender transition mid-way through the hiring process, Macy was told that funding for that position had been cut. She later learned that someone else had been hired for the job.

Macy now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her wife, Trish. She struggled to find work after she was denied the ATF position, she says, applying for more than 300 jobs but finding few leads.

'As a veteran and a police officer, I've worked my whole career to uphold the values of fairness and equality,' Macy said in a statement after the EEOC ruling.

'Although the discrimination I experienced was painful both personally and financially, and led to the loss of my family's home to foreclosure, I'm proud to be a part of this groundbreaking decision confirming that our nation's employment discrimination laws protect all Americans, including Transgender people.

'I'm grateful for the help of Transgender Law Center, which believed in me from the start and helped guide me through this process. No one should be denied a job just for being who they are.'

'It's incredibly significant that the Commission has finally put its stamp of approval on the common-sense understanding that discrimination against Transgender people is a form of sex discrimination,' Transgender Law Center Legal Director Ilona Turner explained.

'That's true whether it's understood as discrimination because of the person's gender identity, or because they have changed their sex, or because they don't conform to other people's stereotypes of how men and women ought to be.'

Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, a legal organization that has been fighting for women's rights since 1974, also celebrated the ruling.

'Today's decision helps our discrimination laws fulfill their purpose of ensuring that no one loses a job based on sex,' she said.

'Women have fought for decades to be judged in the workplace by our abilities, not by our sex, gender identity, or gender stereotypes. We are thrilled that the EEOC has confirmed that Title VII protects Transgender people from job discrimination, thanks to the work of Transgender Law Center.'

National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling called the ruling 'a major victory.'

'As many as 90% of Trans people still face tremendous discrimination in employment according to our National Discrimination Survey, and it will help so much that the EEOC agrees with what more and more courts have been saying, that discriminating against Trans people because of their sex, or their perceived sex, or what an employer thinks about their sex, is clearly sex discrimination, illegal, and wrong,' Keisling said.

Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work, a group pushing for employment protections for LGBT Americans, said Tuesday that the EEOC decision should be applied to all federal agencies, and called on Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to issue new guidelines for federal contractors to protect against anti-Transgender discrimination.

'There is no need for Secretary Solis to wait for President Obama to fulfill his campaign promise to sign such an executive policy because the EEOC has just given the Labor Department the legal reasoning and authority to interpret the existing executive order, created by President [Lyndon B.] Johnson many decades ago, to now protect Transgender Americans,' Almeida said in a statement.

'Unfortunately, Secretary Solis will not have the legal authority to protect Gay and Lesbian Americans from discrimination at federal contractors until President Obama corrects the mistake announced by White House staff a few weeks ago and issues a new executive order banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation,' he continued.

'Gay and Lesbian Americans who face prejudice and harassment in the workplace of federal contractors should not have to wait on the president any longer.'

The EEOC decision follows a trend set by federal courts in recent years, holding that Transgender people are protected by Title VII's prohibition against sex discrimination. In October 2011, HUD issued guidelines saying that it would use the federal Fair Housing Act prohibition against sex discrimination to investigate complaints brought by Transgender individuals.



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