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New Protections for Transgender Employees

Transgender issues are currently at the forefront of public attention. And while opinions on the subject vary, what is important for employers and transgender employees to know is what specific legal protections exist for transgender workers.

The biggest point of debate has historically surrounded whether transgender individuals are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color, as well as national origin, sex, and religion.

The EEOC’s position on this subject changed significantly as a result of landmark decision in 2012. In that decision, the EEOC ruled that discriminating against a transgender employee is the same as discriminating against an employee based on sex-stereotypes, which is illegal under Title VII. See Macy v. Department of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821 (April 20, 2012). Consistent with this ruling, the EEOC took the position that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender is a violation of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination in employment.

In December of last year, the Department of Justice announced that it had expanded its legal definition of sex discrimination to include discrimination based on gender identity. The DOJ announcement was a reversal in position and enables the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division to file Title VII claims against state and local public employers on behalf of transgender individuals.

While this is a step forward, there are still limitations. The DOJ does not have the authority to file suit against private employers and Title VII only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

LGBT advocates are still pushing for a statutory bar against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Despite the efforts of lawmakers over the past decade, this has never been accomplished.

On a state level, Florida is one of thirty-two states that does not have laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender people specifically,. However, the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA) mirrors treatment of Title VII, and the likely expansion of interpreting “transgender” to be included in the definition of “sex” may be a reasonable extension of the same protection of “sex” under the FCRA.

Locally, the cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth and both Palm Beach and Broward County do prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in public and private employment and housing, as well as in public venues from restaurants to hospitals.

Should you have any questions related to transgender discrimination, please contact us online or call our offices at (561) 653-0008. At Scott • Wagner and Associates., our approachable and knowledgeable lawyers are dedicated to providing skilled legal representation for your unique situation.


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Florida 561-653-0008 California 213-377-5200
* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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