U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC Holds Transgender Individuals May State a Claim for Sex Discrimination

In a landmark ruling on April 20, 2012 involving a federal agency employee, the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held that transgender individuals may state a claim for sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The EEOC decision was issued without objection by the five-member, bipartisan commission. It will apply to all EEOC enforcement and litigation activities at the commission and in its 53 field offices throughout the country. It is binding on all federal agencies and departments. This ruling follows a growing number of federal appellate and trial courts deciding that gender-identity discrimination constitutes sex discrimination, whether based on Title VII or the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws.

Federal courts are not bound by the EEOC’s ruling, but employers should be mindful of the workplace implications brought by this important change in the EEOC’s position on gender identity discrimination.

Contact Ann Plunkett at WorkPlace Partners for more information about best practices for addressing gender identity issues in the workplace and strategies for avoiding litigation.