EEOC Files Groundbreaking Cases on Behalf of Trans Workers

September 26, 2014

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has for the first time used the 1964 Civil Rights Act to file federal lawsuits against two companies for discrimination against transgender people. While the EEOC has interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to prohibit anti-transgender bias since 2012, today marks the first time the agency has brought lawsuits on behalf of transgender workers.

A first complaint was filed in Michigan on behalf of Amiee Stephens against her former employer R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home, Inc. The EEOC alleges that soon after Ms. Stephens came out at work about her gender transition she was fired for no other reason than for her being transgender.

The second case was filed in Florida on behalf of Brandi Branson against her former employer Lakeland Eye Clinic. The EEOC alleges that following her transition from male to female at work, she was ostracized on the job and the eye doctors that she worked with stopped referring patients to her. Later Branson was let go with the reason stated that her position was being eliminated entirely. Around two months later, however, a replacement was hired. In Branson’s original EEOC complaint she is represented by trans attorney Jillian Weiss.

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1 is 2 Many: Ending Sexual Assault on College Campuses

September 22, 2014

By Julie Kruse, Immigration Project Director, NCTE

The White House rolled out its “It’s on Us” campaign last week to end sexual assault on college campuses. The “1 is 2 Many” video, featuring the President, the Vice President and various celebrities pledging to intervene to stop sexual assault, is very moving and inspiring.

Thirty years ago, I fought to end rampant sexual assault on my college campus. It seemed almost an undercover effort. Sorority members would anonymously tell us of gang rapes they knew were occurring in the Greek system. Since I was an officer of the group organizing against campus rape, the Dean of Students called me at my home, not to ask how we could work together to stop sexual assault, but to ask what was planned at demonstrations. The police increased their patrols of campus – not to stop rape, but to stop the graffiti warnings at campus crime sites that “a person was raped here.”

With news reports routinely emerging now about sexual assaults on campuses, it seems that in thirty years, not much has changed – except that the information, and outrage, is out in the public. Yet now, someone in authority is taking the issue seriously. In April, the Department of Education issued guidance that colleges and schools that do not respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence against students are in violation of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational settings. The next day, the Department released a list of colleges and universities under investigation for such violations.

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Andy Cray and His Life’s Work

August 30, 2014

By Lisa Mottet, Deputy Executive Director, NCTE

As so many have expressed, Andy had a tremendous impact on the LGBT movement, even though he was only 28 when he left us this Thursday. He was a quiet force behind many transgender health care wins, but he was also genuinely humble about his impact on the lives of so many people. I first met Andy in 2009 when I got to witness first hand his rise from a wide-eyed and somewhat shy law student hopeful about changing the world into a fierce advocate for transgender health. I am not sure when exactly our relationship changed, but it did; at first he peppered me with questions given my years of trans advocacy—and then there was a shift: suddenly, I would turn to him because of his greater expertise in transgender health advocacy. As activists around the country said they wanted to take on discriminatory healthcare exclusions and get my thoughts, we all sent them straight to Andy. I can’t tell you how proud I felt of him, even though it seems kind of odd to say that of someone who quickly rose from intern to colleague, to close friend.

Now, I’m a detail-oriented person—and so was Andy. In fact, this is one of the qualities I greatly appreciated about him. He used words and facts in a precise way in his day to day work. So, in that vein, I want to share with the world, in a very detailed “Andy-like” way, some examples and themes of Andy’s work life, which is how I know Andy would want to be remembered:

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Andy cut his activist teeth at Northwestern University, where he went to college. He and his friend, Kelsey Pacha, co-founded the Northwestern Gender Protection Initiative in the fall of 2007 to lobby for gender identity and expression to be included in the university’s non-discrimination policy. Of course, in true Andy style, only several months later they achieved success in early 2008. During his college years, Andy was also the Activism Chair of the Rainbow Alliance on campus.

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New Report: Open Trans Military Service “Administratively Feasible”

August 26, 2014

Our colleagues at the Palm Center at San Francisco State University this week issued a new report finding that allowing open military service for transgender people “is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome.” The study, “Report of the Planning Commission on Transgender Military Service,” comes from a commission of experts including three retired Generals and serves as a road map for the U.S. Department of Defense to review their regulations that disallow open transgender military service.

The report comes three months after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is open to reviewing the regulations that bar transgender people from serving openly, and ahead of the three year anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

National Center for Transgender Equality commends the findings of this report and calls on the Defense Department to initiate the review. NCTE is confident that open transgender military service is inevitable and we will continue to work until it is achieved.

Read the report here.


NCTE, MALDEF: President’s Administrative Relief Package Must Be LGBTQ Affirmative

August 22, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) today issued a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to provide affirmative relief for individuals who have long-term residency in the United States but may not have state recognized familial relationships with citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPR), or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) holders. The letter also requests the President to advance flexible criminal background requirements in light of the high conviction rates of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants for survival crimes such as sex work.

The letter calls for LGBT inclusion as President Obama is expected to release his administrative relief package on undocumented immigrants in the coming weeks.

LGBT advocates protest deportations in New York, NY | Photo: Julieta Salgado

LGBT advocates protest deportations in New York, NY | Photo: Julieta Salgado/GetEQUAL

“Relief for undocumented Americans should not rely on separating out supposedly ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants based on the circumstances they’ve faced and the choices they’ve made to get by–especially not when it would disproportionately exclude LGBT people,” said Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, NCTE Racial and Economic Justice Initiative Policy Advisor.

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Laverne Cox Shares Stories From Solitary

August 21, 2014

Actress Laverne Cox is taking action to end the use of solitary confinement. This month, Solitary Watch highlighted the story of Synthia China Blast underscoring the violence, abuse, and sexual assault transgender women face in New York’s prisons. Blast has been held in solitary confinement for over a decade. In a joint letter to the New York State Department of Corrections from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and the Trans Women of Color Collective, the practice of routinely placing transgender people in prolonged solitary confinement often results in irreversible mental and physical harm.

Synthia China Blast

Synthia China Blast, a transgender woman held in solitary confinement in a New York prison for over a decade.

NCTE commends Laverne Cox for putting a spotlight on solitary confinement. As detailed in Orange is the New Black, “protective” solitary confinement doesn’t actually protect anyone. But to end solitary confinement, New Yorkers must take action. That’s why the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, FIERCE, and the Audre Lorde Project have launched a petition demanding an end to so called “protective” solitary confinement in New York.

Sign the petition here.

Placing transgender people—or anyone else—in solitary isn’t protection; it’s torture. By putting pressure on New York prison officials, New Yorkers can make a difference now in the lives of some of our communities’ most vulnerable members.


Federal Contractors Put on Notice: Labor Dept. Issues Non-Discrimination Guidance

August 19, 2014

Today, the Department of Labor (DOL) sent guidance to the 200,000 federal contractors saying they may not discriminate against transgender workers. They clarified that that sex discrimination laws extend to individuals discriminated against based on their gender identity or “transgender status” and that this will be in force even before the President’s Executive order adding “gender identity” protections is fully implemented. DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will oversee compliance with these newest guidelines.

In June, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced that DOL is also in the process of updating enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance to protect transgender workers in other areas over which the Department of Labor has jurisdiction.

“Today’s latest victory means that almost every major federal civil rights agency agrees that federal sex discrimination laws protect transgender people in the areas of employment, housing, health care, and education,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “While President Obama’s executive order will take effect once implementing rules are issued in 2015, today’s DOL announcement makes it unmistakable that individuals who are discriminated based on their gender identity in the workplace by a federal contractor can file discrimination complaints immediately with the Department of Labor,” said Keisling.

For information on filing complaints with the Department, please refer to NCTE’s resource “Transgender Federal Workers: Your Workplace Rights.” As always, if you have been discriminated against by any employer, please refer to our “Employment Discrimination and Transgender People” resource.


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