EEOC Files Two Lawsuits Alleging Sex Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals
On September 25, 2014, the EEOC filed two separate lawsuits alleging that employers violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminatorily terminating transgender employees. These lawsuits are the first of their kind in federal court.
In the first case, EEOC v. Lakeland Eye Clinic, (Case No. 8:14-cv-2421, M.D.Fla.), the EEOC alleges that a Lakeland, Florida-based employer unlawfully fired a transgender employee who was transitioning from male to female because she was not conforming to her employer’s gender-based expectations, preferences, or stereotypes. According to the EEOC’s complaint, the employer terminated the employee, who had been performing her job duties satisfactorily, only after she informed her employer that she was transgender and began to present as a woman.
The EEOC makes similar allegations in the second case, EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. (No. 2:14-cv-13710, E.D.Mich.). There, a transgender employee, who had been employed by a Detroit-based funeral home as a funeral director/embalmer since 2007, was allegedly terminated two weeks after she informed her employer that she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female and intended to begin presenting as a woman. The EEOC alleges that at the time of her termination, the employee’s supervisor informed her that what she was “proposing to do” was unacceptable.
These lawsuits follow the EEOC’s 2012 landmark ruling in Macy v. Department of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821, that if an employer discriminates against employees because they are transgender, because of their gender identity, and/or because they have transitioned (or intend to transition), the employer is engaging in unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title VII. According to the EEOC, these newly-filed lawsuits are a continuation of its ongoing efforts to implement its Strategic Enforcement Plan (“SEP”). The SEP, adopted in December 2012, includes “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions” as one of the agency’s top enforcement priorities.
Given that this is a developing area of the law, employers are advised to review their anti-discrimination policies in consultation with counsel. For further assistance, please contact Laura Monaco, at 212-758-7754, or any other attorney at the Firm.