Legal protections now in place for transgender employees

(San Francisco, April 25, 2012) In a groundbreaking move, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that transgender employees are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights code which bars discrimination based on gender. Out & Equal applauds this decision that makes it clear that prejudice should have no place in America’s workplaces.

“This is a major step forward in securing rights for everyone in this country,” stated J. Kevin Jones, Deputy Director of Out & Equal. “This week, transgender Americans can now live with the security of knowing that they have legal protections from workplace harassment and discrimination. We are thrilled with this decision that states clearly that transgender employees are equal under the law and deserve to be welcomed and valued for their contributions at work.”

The decision by the full five members of the EEOC applies to both private and public employers throughout the country in all businesses with 15 or more employees and the federal government. For the first time, transgender people in all states are protected by federal law and can pursue legal remedies if they are fired or passed over for employment because of their gender identity.  A growing number of courts have held that laws banning gender based discrimination do cover transgender people, but this decision sets a new national standard.

The ruling came as a result of a case brought by Mia Macy, a veteran and former police detective who had applied for a job with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Despite her exceptional qualifications, she was not hired for a position after letting the agency know that she was undergoing a gender transition.  She and her family had relocated in order to take this position; when it was denied to her, they lost their home to foreclosure.

Sadly, this is not an isolated experience. Discrimination against transgender people remains rampant in the nation’s workforce. In a 2011 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 90% of respondents to a nation-wide survey reported harassment, mistreatment, firing, or denial of employment or had hidden their identities in order to avoid discrimination. Currently, 34 states have no legal protections in place to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity; residents of those states now have employment rights for the first time.

“Thank you to Mia Macy for her strengthen and courage to stand up to discrimination and to our colleagues at the Transgender Law Center for their dedicated work on this case,” concluded Jones.  “Our nation is stronger because of it.”