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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 25, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 21
DOJ agrees Title VII protects Trans people
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DOJ agrees Title VII protects Trans people

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The U.S. Justice Department announced on May 21 that it accepts the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's April 20 ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers gender identity discrimination.

The ruling, which said discrimination against Trans people is a type of sex discrimination prohibited under Title VII, could be the opening for a broad reassessment of how the federal government treats Trans people.

The EEOC ruling arose from a complaint filed by the Transgender Law Center on behalf of Mia Macy.

Macy claimed she was denied employment by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) after the agency learned of her transition.

ATF had initially responded to Macy's claim by saying that her gender identity and 'Transgender status' claims could not be argued under Title VII. Macy then appealed to the EEOC, which found that her claims were covered under Title VII.

In a May 18 letter to Macy, ATF acknowledged, 'In accordance with the [EEOC]'s decision dated April 20, 2012, we are processing your entire complaint under Title VII.'

Under EEOC procedure for such complaints, either side in the dispute has 30 days from the receipt of an EEOC decision to request reconsideration.

That deadline would have fallen in the week prior to May 21, and the EEOC ruling was not challenged.

'This is a historic day for human rights in the United States,' said Masen Davis, TLC's executive director, in a statement.

'From the Deep South to my home state of Missouri, starting today Transgender and gender-nonconforming people now have legal recourse if they face discrimination on the job. We no longer have to be silent when we are fired or not hired simply for being who we are.'

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the EEOC must now be ready to implement its decision.

'The EEOC needs to make sure all of their own people are trained,' she said.

Keisling added that the EEOC may need to issue guidance, as it does in other situations, to clarify the effect of this ruling on private employers.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which is in the Department of Labor, she says, 'in theory, should be interpreting the existing federal contractor rules [that ban sex discrimination] to include Trans people,' a point made recently in a report by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School.

'We still need [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act],' Keisling cautioned.

'We still need an executive order [to ban federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity]. We still need a hell of a lot of training.'

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