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Transgender people protected under employment discrimination laws

Employers in San Diego and throughout the entire state of California are banned from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on their sex. This means that a man cannot be denied a job simply because he is a man, or a woman cannot be denied a promotion at work simply because she is a woman. This type of employment discrimination is illegal under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But times have obviously changed since this law was enacted, and one’s biological sex might not match the gender the individual identifies with. This issue has raised new concerns in the workplace regarding whether or not employers can discriminate against employees or job applicants who are considered transgender.

Some have argued that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has not been very consistent with reprimanding companies who have been accused of transgender discrimination. However, a new ruling this week may help to serve as a stern warning to employers in California and throughout the entire U.S. that transgender employees and job applicants are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

This week’s ruling stems from a complaint that was filed in California with the EEOC. The individual who filed the complaint stated that she had applied for a job at the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Walnut Creek in 2010. At the time of applying for the job, the individual was a man. ATF did hire the man, but before the new employee started, the individual, who identified as a female, made her official transition to female.

ATF was notified of the new employee’s transition to female. But after the woman moved to start her new job, she was told that the position no longer existed because the ATF was forced to make budget cuts. The transgender woman later discovered that someone else had been hired for the same position.

When the complaint was initially filed by the woman in 2011 citing sex and gender discrimination, the EEOC rejected the claim. The EEOC claimed that the Civil Rights Act did not protect transgender employees or job applicants. Now the EEOC has clarified that transgender people are protected, and the woman can pursue her discrimination lawsuit against ATF.

This ruling will allow other transgender people to file complaints with the EEOC if they believe that they have been denied a job or fired as a result of transgender discrimination.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Ruling allows transgender woman to sue for job discrimination,” Sam Quinones, April 24, 2012


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