Title VII Legal Breakthrough for Transgender People

One of the most important requirements for a decent old age is having enough income to pay for housing, medications, food, and other necessities of life.  Many LGBT elders have trouble meeting that requirement due to lifelong employment discrimination.  On April 23, 2012, a ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) became a key step in correcting this discrepancy, especially for transgender elders.

 Yesterday the EEOC issued an opinion that employers are already forbidden from discriminating against transgender people based on the existing Title VII law, which forbids employment discrimination based on “sex.” The decision states:

“When an employer discriminates against someone because the person is transgender, the employer has engaged in disparate treatment related to the sex of the victim.  This is true regardless of whether an employer discriminates against an employee because the individual has expressed his or her gender in a non-stereotypical fashion, because the employer is uncomfortable with the fact that the person has transitioned or is in the process of transitioning from one gender to another, or because the employer simply does not like that the person is identifying as a transgender person.”

The new ruling has wide implications.  To begin with, it is binding on all federal agencies and departments, and since the federal government is the nation’s largest employer, that is a major step forward.  The ruling also guides the 53 EEOC district offices, enabling them to bring lawsuits against private employers the agency determines have discriminated against transgender employees.

 The ruling also should be “given significant deference by federal courts,” notes one reporter, although it could be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.  However, that is unlikely, given that the new ruling rests on two previous Supreme Court cases that extended the scope of Title VII.

 MetroWeekly has published a long article on the ruling that includes significant background on the specific case this ruling was issued on and a lengthy discussion of past related legal developments.  That article is available at http://www.metroweekly.com/news/?ak=7288

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