Senate Blocks Raising the Minimum Wage for LGBT Americans

April 30, 2014

Today, the U.S. Senate blocked a key vote on the Fair Minimum Wage Act (S. 460), a bill that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour by 2015. Provisions in the bill would have also tied minimum wage increases to cost of living increases, and eventually, raised the wage for tipped workers, which has remained frozen for the last 20 years.

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “The Senate’s failure to move the minimum wage bill forward is a disappointing blow to transgender and LGBT Americans who are more likely than most to scrape by on poverty-level wages. Transgender people are four times more likely to be living in extreme poverty on less than $10,000 per year.”

Raise the Minimum Wage

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U.S. Dept. of Energy Affirms Trans Discrimination Illegal

January 2, 2014

US-Department-of-Energy-LogoThe U.S. Department of Energy has joined the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Interior, Labor, State, Veterans Affairs, and several other agencies in updating its EEO policy to make clear that anti-transgender discrimination constitutes sex discrimination.

In a legal sense, transgender federal employees have been protected since 2009, when President Obama sent a memorandum directing all agencies to issue updated guidance under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which prohibits discrimination against federal workers and job applicants based on any non-merit basis. Since then, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) has worked with many federal agencies to cement these principles into agency culture and rules in two ways: 1) We have conducted numerous trainings within agencies, and 2) we have also asked them to enumerate “gender identity” into their written agency Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policies. While “gender identity” is a protected class across the federal government, there is an important effect in having individual agencies name and embrace the inclusion. It makes transgender employees and job applicants more comfortable that they are protected and helps educate others throughout the agency about this important principle.

However, some agencies were quicker than others to spell out gender identity protections in their internal policies, and in many cases agencies were unclear as to whether transgender workers could use the stronger complaint processes available for sex discrimination claims, as opposed to those under the civil service law. This question was resolved by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s 2012 decision in Macy v. Holder, which held that all federal agencies must treat anti-transgender discrimination complaints the same as other sex discrimination complaints.

While Macy is not binding on courts or private employers, it is binding on the federal government, and most agencies have updated their policies to reflect this. To date, only the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Treasury, along with some smaller agencies, haven’t yet made official updates.

Below is the complete EEO statement from the Department of Energy as shared earlier this week by Secretary Moniz to all 14,000 Energy employees.

View this document on Scribd

NCTE Applauds Reconfirmation of EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum

December 12, 2013

The National Center for Transgender Equality congratulates Commissioner Chai Feldblum on her confirmation for a second term to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and we strongly commend President Obama for this selection. Commissioner Feldblum has been an exemplary public servant her whole career and a civil rights hero. Her work and her thinking have been essential to decades of equal employment advances in the U.S.

According to NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, “I couldn’t be more pleased that remarkable public servants like Chai Feldblum continue to be appointed to positions that matter so much to transgender working people.”

NCTE wishes Commissioner Feldblum continued success on the EEOC.

“Orange is the New Black” Actor Laverne Cox Speaks Out for Transgender Workplace Protections

November 1, 2013

Today, breakout actor on the Netflix hit series Orange is the New Black joined the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) in pressing for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). In light of the scheduled votes for ENDA, Cox told NCTE:

“Getting to play Sophia Burset in the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black is a dream come true for me. As an out transgender woman of color, I don’t take the enormity of me being able to live my dreams lightly. This is not the case for so many of my transgender brothers and sisters. Everyone should have the same chance to get ahead, to support themselves and their families and to live their dreams. They should have the same chance to build a career doing something that they love to do. Having explicit federal laws like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act will make that possible for transgender people and I urge the U.S. Senate to swiftly pass this bill.”

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “Laverne and I are examples of what could happen for each member of our community if every transgender person had the same shot at succeeding in their jobs while doing what they love.” Keisling added, “But in a country where 78% of transgender people face disrespect, discrimination or harassment at work, the promise of the American dream becomes disappointingly distant. I join Laverne in strongly urging all Senators to vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

The decades-old bill is slated for a cloture vote on Monday, November 4th, 2013 with a final vote expected later next week. The forthcoming vote marks the first time a transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act receives a vote in U.S. Congress.

Sign the petition to tell your Senators to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Share Laverne’s statement on Facebook. 


Five Things You Should Know To Understand the EEOC Decision and the Need for ENDA

September 24, 2013

We have received some questions about the full legal and practical consequences of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Macy decision—and whether the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is still legally or practically necessary for transgender people to experience equality on the job. The answer is complex and nuanced, but here’s the bottom line: the EEOC decision is incredibly useful, but we still need ENDA to end transgender job discrimination.

The EEOC decision has significantly moved us forward, but we need ENDA to take us the rest of the way. Until we are there, transgender people now have recourse with the EEOC that they can and should utilize (See our Know Your Rights at Work resource  for how to do so). Let me explain why both the EEOC ruling is so important, and why we still need ENDA.


1. What does the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling do?

Before the EEOC’s Macy decision, when a transgender person filed a complaint with the EEOC for job discrimination, the EEOC used to spit it back out—saying that there was no basis for the claim—and telling people that they could bring a lawsuit in court if they wanted to. Now, after the Macy decision, the EEOC takes these complaints and processes them—both offering to help negotiate a settlement and investigating the complaint.  A few people have successfully won settlements using this process, which is great. (It should be noted though that the EEOC has a backlog because it is understaffed for the number of complaints it receives, meaning this process takes a long time. We are thankful, though, that the EEOC has prioritized LGBT enforcement in its latest strategic plan). However, the bigger limitation is that an employer isn’t required to negotiate at all—the employer can just say they don’t care what the EEOC says and “sue us.”  Yet, because the EEOC complaint process is time consuming and arduous for an employer, the fact that the EEOC is doing an investigation may make it more likely that the employer will settle instead of ignore an EEOC complaint. The possibility of settlement this way is of great practical benefit for transgender people. By the way, for federal employees, the EEOC decision was binding—and the EEOC can award damages to federal employees if a federal agency discriminates without them having to file a lawsuit.

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NCTE Applauds Landmark EEOC Settlement for Transgender Worker; Urges All Victims of Bias to File Complaints

September 17, 2013

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) applauds the work of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Lambda Legal in reaching a landmark settlement on behalf of a transgender victim of job discrimination. Cory McCreery, an employee at a grocery store in South Dakota, was fired after announcing her plan to transition. Lambda Legal filed a complaint on McCreery’s behalf, stating that the termination constituted sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After an investigation, the EEOC made a finding that there was reasonable cause to believe the termination was unlawful. Following this finding, a conciliation agreement was reached to avoid litigation in federal court. The agreement includes the maximum allowable monetary amount in a case of this type, as well as requiring the former employer to post a public notice about discrimination on the workplace bulletin board, host annual trainings on workplace discrimination and issue a letter of apology and letter of recommendation for McCreery. NCTE urges any transgender worker who has experienced job discrimination in any job to reach out for legal help now and file a complaint with the EEOC.

The settlement in McCreery’s case follows a string of court decisions finding anti-trans bias is prohibited by Title VII, as well as a formal decision by the EEOC itself last year in Macy v. Holder. In Macy, a transgender woman was denied a job with a federal agency after disclosing that she was in the process of transitioning from male to female. The case was brought before the EEOC, which held that discrimination based on a person’s gender non-conformity, transgender status or plan to transition genders constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII. The Macy decision established the EEOC’s official position, and is binding on federal agencies, but not binding on courts in private-sector cases, though we hope it would be pursuasive. While not establishing a legal precedent, the settlement in Ms. McCreery’s cases is a milestone because it is the first time the EEOC has reached a settlement on behalf of a worker for gender identity discrimination. This is a strong signal that the EEOC will seriously pursue discrimination against trans people, wherever it occurs. (The EEOC issued a statement about the settlement on its own website.)

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Dept. of Labor Issues Guidelines on Treatment of Trans Workers

July 29, 2013

The US Department of Labor recently published guidance for its employees on ensuring nondiscrimination in the workplace at the Department, which employs more than 17,000 people across the country. The document builds on guidance issued to all federal agencies by the Office of Personnel Management in 2011, and the Department’s addition at that time of language in its Equal Employment Opportunity policy clarifying that gender identity is a protected form of sex discrimination.

The new guidance provides further explanation of these protections and policies and how to ensure equal treatment in the workplace Managers and employees are instructed to use preferred names and pronouns and respect the privacy of transgender people. Managers are advised to support employees in making gender transitions, and the guidance specifically states: “Dress codes must not be used to prevent a transgender employee from living full-time in the role consistent with his or her gender identity.”

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‘A Broken Bargain’ Report on Workplace Discrimination Released by Leading LGBT Organizations

June 4, 2013

broken-bargain-infographic-transgender (1)The National Center for Transgender Equality joins a group of national LGBT equality and labor organizations to release a groundbreaking report, Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers. The new report is the most up to date publication on the LGBT workforce revealing:

  • Approximately 5.4 million LGBT workers live in 93% of all U.S. counties.
  • Thirty-seven percent of LGBT adults have a child, making family benefits a necessity.
  • LGBT people are at higher risk of poverty than non-LGBT people. Fifteen percent of transgender people have a household income under $10,000, compared to 4% of the population as a whole. Same-sex couples raising children are more than twice as likely to have household incomes near the poverty line compared to different-sex parents (21% vs. 9%).
  • LGBT workers are slightly more racially/ethnically diverse than the U.S. population as a whole.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling noted that transgender workers face a unique set of workplace challenges that may lead to the disproportionately high rate of unemployment. “The demand for transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws is as much a business case as it is a moral case. Employers struggle to keep great employees, and trans employees are twice as likely as the general public to hold advanced degrees, yet have twice the rate of unemployment,” Keisling said. “Instituting laws and policies that protect highly qualified transgender workers is good for everyone–employers and employees.”

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