US victory against gender discrimination
A ruling by the US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has set a national standard to protect transgender people from discrimination in the workplace.
The decision by the commission last week is in line with similar decisions previously made by the federal courts, but this latest ruling now declares any refusal to hire or otherwise discriminate on the basis of gender identity is by definition sex discrimination under US laws.
Jennifer Pizer, a legal director of the UCLA School of Law, said prior to this ruling transgender people would have their complaints to the EEOC regional offices ignored due to the confusion between state laws.
“This is a confirmation that the courts are correct, so public and private employers coast to coast now have the benefit of the EEOC making this clear,” she said.
“This decision is important because the EEOC is the agency with lead authority to interpret and enforce the nation's employment rights laws.”
In the EEOC decision the term ‘gender’ was defined not only to include a person’s biological gender but also the cultural and social aspects associated with masculinity and femininity.
Spokesperson for the EEOC Justine Lisser said the unanimous ruling did not create a new cause for action but rather clarified that cases of gender stereotyping are considered claims of sex discrimination under law.
Tandra LaGrone, executive director of Albany LGBT advocacy group In Our Own Voices, said the decision is a triumph for the transgender community.
"It's an awesome decision for transgender people who go through a transition and come back to find they no longer have a job,” LaGrone said.
“The fact that they now are protected from that happening is astounding for our community.”
The ruling was on a case by a Californian woman who claimed she was refused a contract with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after the contractor discovered she had transitioned from male to female.
Prior to the ruling, 16 states and the District of Columbia had laws in place prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity.