April 24, 2012 1:54 PM Subscribe
"[T]he Commission hereby clarifies that claims of discrimination based on transgender status, also referred to as claims of discrimination based on gender identity, are cognizable under Title VII's sex discrimination prohibition"On April 20, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a unanimous ruling for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought up by the Transgender Law Center on behalf of Mia Macy, who claimed she was denied a job as at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after she announced she was transitioning from male to female. The decision allows for people who have been fired or prohibited from applying for a job based on their gender identity to bring federal lawsuits against their employers under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The culmination of several civil lawsuits stretching back to 1974, the ruling is expected to be "a real sea change" for protecting transgender employees against workplace discrimination. However, supporters say that this is just the beginning. Apart from the inevitable Supreme Court challenge, where the precedent from Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins and Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc. at least seems to be on the side of continued protections, there are 34 states where it is legal to fire someone solely for being transgender. In addition, the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), first introduced in 1994 and sponsored in all but one session since then, has yet to be passed despite having the support of 73% of Americans as of 2011. The current incarnation of ENDA, sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Jeff Merkley and supported by the Obama Administration, has 161 cosponsors in the House and 41 in the Senate, but has not yet passed out of committee.
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