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.
The EEOC regularly files lawsuits on behalf of workers who have faced discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, religion, age, or disability. In 2012, the EEOC ruled in Macy v. Holder that a federal worker denied a job for being transgender had a valid claim under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination. The Commission has affirmed in other proceedings involving federal workers that Title VII prohibits anti-LGBT bias, and has designated LGBTI bias cases as an agency-wide enforcement priority. The agency currently has hundreds of pending Title VII charges alleging gender identity discrimination, and hundreds more involving sexual orientation discrimination.
NCTE welcomes the filing of these cases as yet another sign that protecting LGBT people is becoming part of the everyday work of enforcing the nation’s sex discrimination laws in employment, housing, health care, and education. See NCTE’s Know Your Rights resources for information about how to file federal discrimination complaints and how to find legal help. The EEOC has also produced a brochure on how Title VII protects LGBT workers and how to file a charge.