By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
In a landmark April 20 decision, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that the prohibition on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employment discrimination based on gender identity.
”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,” the unanimous decision, delivered April 23, states. ”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.”
According to a lengthy analysis by Metro Weekly, the opinion is the latest and broadest reaching interpretation of Title VII’s in favor of its application to discrimination against transgender applicants and workers:
[National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon] Minter, who has been working for LGBT legal equality since law school in the early 1990s, says, ”This is huge. This is a real sea change.”
”To have just a clear, definitive EEOC ruling that Title VII protects transgender people gives us so much more certainty and security and solid, reliable legal protection. For decades now, advocates and scholars both have been saying Title VII should be applied to protect transgender people,” he says. ”And now, to have the EEOC confirm that, ‘Yes … Title VII should and does protect transgender people when they’re discriminated against because they’ve changed their sex or intend to change their sex or because they’re gender nonconforming. That is sex discrimination.’ That is really an important capstone.”
[Masen] Davis, the head of the Transgender Law Center, says the decision is a ”big leap forward in the journey to equality.” Explaining, he says, ”It is the game-changer, asserting that transgender people can bring claims at EEOC offices across the country.”
Throughout the 53 district offices of the EEOC, investigators will now accept claims brought by transgender people, and — though the EEOC process means it could take some time — the EEOC’s legal staff can bring lawsuits against employers the agency has determined have discriminated against transgender employees or job applicants.