EEOC Files First Lawsuits to Protect Transgendered Workers

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), on Sept. 25, 2014, filed two lawsuits seeking protection of transgendered people in the workplace.

Specifically, the EEOC accused a Michigan funeral home and a Florida eye clinic of illegally firing employees who were transitioning from male to female in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

In its lawsuit filed against the Florida eye clinic, the EEOC alleges that the defendant’s employee performed her duties satisfactorily throughout her employment and was fired only after she began to present (i.e., dress) as a woman and informed her employer that she was transgender.

Likewise, in its case against the Michigan the funeral home, the EEOC alleges that the funeral home employee always adequately performed her duties in the position of funeral director/embalmer but was suddenly fired two weeks after she advised her employer that she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female and would soon start to dress in appropriate female business attire, consistent with her gender identity as a woman. 

According to the EEOC, the alleged actions of the employers violate Title VII, which prohibits sex discrimination, including that based on gender stereotyping. EEOC Indianapolis Regional Attorney Laurie Young stated “Title VII prohibits employers from firing employees because they do not behave according to the employer’s stereotypes of how men and women should act, and this includes employees who present themselves according to their gender identity.” 

These lawsuits further emphasize the EEOC’s ongoing efforts to implement its Strategic Enforcement Plan, which includes “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions, as they may apply” as one of the EEOC’s top enforcement priorities. 

For additional information, find the EEOC press releases regarding these two lawsuits here (http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/9-25-14d.cfm) and here (http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/9-25-14e.cfm).

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