WHAT PROTECTIONS DO TRANSGENDER INDIVIDUALS HAVE IN THE WORKPLACE?

A recent lawsuit and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint have caused the Justice Department to clarify the stance of the federal government on gender identity discrimination in the workplace.

Leyth Jamal, a former Associate with Saks Fifth Avenue, filed a lawsuit alleging that she was harassed, discriminated and retaliated against due to her gender identity. According to the lawsuit, Jamal was harassed by her coworkers and forced to use the men’s bathroom. One of her managers told her that she should adopt a more masculine appearance and “separate her home life from work life.” After Jamal filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Saks fired her.

Saks argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does not prohibit gender identity discrimination. Saks’ statement received heavy criticism from a number of individuals and organizations, including New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The Justice Department issued a statement clarifying the protections Title VII affords transgender individuals: “Saks maintains that Ms. Jamal cannot prevail on a Title VII sex discrimination claim that is based on her gender identity, particularly her transgender status. Not so. Discrimination against an individual based on gender identity is discrimination because of sex.”

New York City law protects transgender employees

Additionally, New York City transgender employees are further protected from discrimination in the workplace. The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) specifically states gender identity discrimination as a form of unlawful gender discrimination.

For transgender employees in New York City, local laws remains the most unambiguous legal protection they have against discriminatory conduct at work.

Protected Activities and Forbidden Activities

Transgender individuals have the legal protection to transition while at work and in his or her status as a transgender individual.

Employers are forbidden from discriminating against transgender individuals just as they are forbidden from discrimination against individuals because of their gender, race or national origin.

An employer may not refuse to hire or terminate an individual due to their transgender status or decision to transition.  Additionally, employers may not take any negative employment action or treat someone differently because of their transgender status or decision to transition.

Don’t allow your employer to discriminate against you

Recent legal developments have made it evident that Title VII protects workers from gender identity discrimination. If you have experienced gender identity discrimination at work, you can either file a complaint with a government agency such as the EEOC, or bring a lawsuit.

We, the lawyers at Akin Law Group are well-versed in matters regarding city, state, and federal employment law. Contact us at 866.685.5163 to schedule a free consultation.