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EEOC Sues 2 Companies for Alleged Discrimination Against Transgender Employees

Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been suing employers who discriminate based on sex. Now, more than 50 years after the act's passage, the EEOC has finally filed two lawsuits claiming sex discrimination where employers have allegedly discriminated against employees for being transgender. Companies should never discriminate against transgender employees. But now, it is also likely illegal.

Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been suing employers who discriminate based on sex. Now, more than 50 years after the act’s passage, the EEOC has finally filed two lawsuits claiming sex discrimination where employers have allegedly discriminated against employees for being transgender. Companies should never discriminate against transgender employees. But now, it is also likely illegal.

transgender flag

(Photo Credit: torbakhopper/Flickr)

Lakeland Eye Clinic Accused of Transgender Discrimination

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According to an EEOC press release, the first of these lawsuits involves an eye clinic in Florida. The lawsuit claims that the clinic fired an employee because she is transgender, because she is in the process of transitioning from male to female, and/or because she did not conform to the clinic’s gender stereotypes. This employee had performed her duties satisfactorily throughout her time working at the clinic. When she started working there, she presented a man. However, when she reached the point in her transition where she started presenting as a woman at work and she informed her employer that she is transgender, the clinic fired her.

Michigan Funeral Home Chain Sued for Sex Discrimination Against Transgender Employee

The second suit is against a chain of funeral homes. The chain is accused of firing a funeral director because she is transgender, because she is transitioning, and/or because she did not conform to her employer’s gender stereotypes. The employee, Amiee Stephens, performed her duties adequately throughout her employment according to the suit. She originally started working for the funeral home chain in 2007 as a funeral director and embalmer in 2007. At that time, she presented as a male. Then, in 2013, she informed her employer that she was going to be transition to female, and as part of that process she would soon begin to wear professional woman’s attire in the workplace. Two weeks later, the chain fired her. The owner of the chain told her that she was fired and that what she was “proposing to do” was unacceptable.

Why Are These Suits Being Filed Now?

The EEOC says that these lawsuits were filed as part of the agency’s efforts to enact what it calls its Strategic Enforcement Plan, which it enacted in 2012. This policy made enforcement of the Civil Rights Act’s sex discrimination provisions as they apply to the LGBT community a high priority. A regional attorney for the agency, Laurie Young, explained that, “Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act] prohibits employers from firing employees because they do not behave according to the employer’s stereotypes of how men and women should act, and this includes employees who present themselves according to their gender identity.” The focus on transgender persons is new, and a welcome addition to the legal framework.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you know someone who has been discriminated against at work for being transgender? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Daniel Kalish
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