In 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed its first two lawsuits that claimed that transgender discrimination was prohibited under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Commission asserted that because transgender discrimination was a form of sex stereotyping, it was covered under Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination.
Recently, one of the two lawsuits was settled out of court for $150,000. Lakeland Eye Clinic, a health care organization, agreed to pay the settlement after it was accused of discriminating against an employee who was undergoing a transition from male to female.
According to the lawsuit, the clinic began to discriminate against an employee after she revealed that she was transgender and began presenting as a woman. Her co-workers began to ridicule her, and the majority of the clinic’s physicians stopped referring patients to her. After several months, she was fired; the clinic told her that her position was being eliminated along with the entire hearing services division. Contrary to the clinic’s claims, however, the hearing services division remained in place after she was fired, and a new employee was hired to take her place.
After the lawsuit was filed, the eye clinic agreed to pay the $150,000 settlement, give the fired employee a neutral job reference, and adopt a policy prohibiting gender identity discrimination.
Awareness of transgender discrimination is growing
The Lakeland Eye Clinic lawsuit and settlement reflect a growing awareness of transgender discrimination in the workplace. Transgender workers face some of the most difficult situations at work: nearly 90 percent experience discrimination on the job. Luckily, it seems that the federal government has taken note of the problem: in late December of last year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department views transgender discrimination as a form of unlawful sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. This announcement may make it more difficult for employers to get away with gender identity discrimination.
New York City law prohibits transgender discrimination
Despite the Justice Department’s statement, there is nothing in the Civil Rights Act that explicitly outlaws gender identity discrimination. Fortunately for NYC employees, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) specifically states that gender identity discrimination is considered a form of unlawful sex discrimination. It defines “gender” as a person’s actual or perceived sex, gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the legal sex assigned to that person at birth”
The lawyers at Akin Law Group are committed to fighting injustice in the workplace
If you have experienced gender identity discrimination in the workplace, do not hesitate to take action: contact us at 866.685.5163 to schedule a free consultation. The lawyers at Akin Law Group are experienced in matters involving city, state, and federal employment law, and are ready to defend your right to a non-discriminatory workplace.