Transgender Workplace Rights Upheld in Landmark Ruling

16 May

Equal just got a bit more equal

A recent decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has significantly increased workplace protections for transgender employees. In a landmark ruling on April 20, the EEOC declared that discrimination against someone because they are transgender violates Title VII protections against sex discrimination. It stems from a discrimination charge filed by Mia Macy, a transgender woman.

Macy applied for a position with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) while she was still presenting as a man. She was informed that she would be hired pending a background investigation. In the interest of transparency, she told the investigators that she was in the process of transitioning from male to female, and asked them to inform the ATF of the change. Shortly thereafter, she was informed that due to federal budget reductions, the position was no longer available. She later learned that someone else had been hired for that exact position.

Ms. Macy submitted a discrimination charge with the EEOC, selecting “sex” and “female” as the categories of discrimination. She typed in “gender identity” and “sex stereotyping” as the basis for her complaint, which resulted in an initial rejection as the EEOC stated those added categories were outside its jurisdiction. Ms. Macy’s attorney appealed that determination, resulting in a unanimous ruling that 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 decision is a major step forward in recognizing the rights of transgender Americans. The right to work is fundamental, and this federal ruling creates a much stronger protection for this oft-neglected minority. More work must be done, however. As Lisa Mottet, Transgender Civil Rights Project Director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, noted:

Although the ruling should be given at least some deference by federal courts, it is not the final say, and it cannot be guaranteed that this interpretation will ultimately be adopted by the Supreme Court… If Congress would pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it would cause employers throughout the country to update their non-discrimination policies with ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’ conduct training for hiring officers and supervisors, and would mean that ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ would be listed with the other protected characteristics on the ‘Know Your Rights’ posters in the break room. Yes, legal recourse and being able to go to the EEOC are important, but when 78 percent of transgender people are experiencing mistreatment, harassment, or discrimination in the workplace, we need change on a much higher order — the kind of change that will only come with passage of a federal law.

Still, we should celebrate progress as it comes and use this great moment to raise awareness of the stronger change still needed. The Transgender Law Center has a good overview of the impact of the ruling and the full text of it is available here.


7 Responses to “Transgender Workplace Rights Upheld in Landmark Ruling”

  1. William May 16, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Transgenerism doesn’t get half the thought or attention it should, I know I am guilty of losing it in the shuffle.

    I am glad to not only see a significant step in the right direction for Equal Rights to those who identify as Transgender but also under such circumstance that puts in the light of a Federal Organization being taken to task over it.

    It’s atrocious it Had to happen of course and my empathy goes to Ms. Macy for having to put up with this crap. But an organization such as the ATF being involved will help bring more attention to this problem than your average private sector employer being a a bigoted, closed-minded pig.

    As I said my empathy goes to Ms. Macy along with my Congratulations and Respect for having the will to take the fight to them.

    • William May 16, 2012 at 11:52 am #

      Crap, mouse hit the wrong button again, was aiming at the actual Comment button .. ooops

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt May 16, 2012 at 11:57 am #

      Thanks for you your support and compassion. You’re right, the Transgender community is still painfully overlooked and undersupported. Ms. Macy deserves significant credit for standing up to oppression and moving things forward.

  2. nevercontrary May 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    It is wonderful to see people standing up for themselves!
    Reminds me of the blog raising my rainbow. About a mom who stands up for her sons right to be himself in a dress or not whatever he wants.

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt May 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

      Yes, isn’t it delightful? Thanks for mentioning RMR – what a delightful blog. We need more of that kind of celebration.

  3. Christine Noble May 17, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Slowly but surely people are coming around. I’ve said it, I’m pretty sure here and I know elsewhere, before, but that is a big reason the bigots are so motivated. They see their dwindling importance and try to stoke the flame. Not that we can sit back and not do the work of change, but it is nice to see change is happening.

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt May 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

      Nicely put. It is good to realize that much of the rage comes from the realization of impending obsolescence.

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