EEOC files first suits against employers for discrimination toward transgender employees

took on two employment discrimination cases on behalf of two transgender individuals. The EEOC is suing Lakeland Eye Clinic in Florida on behalf of Brandi Branson, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home in Michigan on behalf of Amiee Stephens, both of whom were fired from their jobs when their employers discovered that they were transgender individuals that were in the process of transitioning from male to female. The EEOC has taken on these cases not long after the Department of Labor determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should protect and encompass transgender individuals. Previously, the EEOC stated in its suit Macy v. Holder that “discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity is sex discrimination, and thus constitutes a violation [of Title VII].” Stephens’ and Branson’s are the first transgender discrimination cases that the EEOC has taken on. However, a study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force shows that a full 90 percent of transgendered individuals have experienced discrimination or harassment at work because of their gender identity, and 47 percent reported to have been fired or overlooked for promotions because of gender non-conformation. Many of these cases are never reported or prosecuted, which makes Branson and Stephens’ cases turning-points for gender-identity discrimination; it shows that the U.S. government agencies stand behind them in stating that discriminating against transgendered individuals is not acceptable, and will not be tolerated. “The issue of coverage for transgender individuals was a question that needed further development as a community that’s been subjected to severe and pervasive discrimination,” Florida EEOC regional attorney Robert Weisberg said in a statement. “We hope that this complaint and this litigation serves as an educational opportunity for the public, for employers at large and for other individuals that may be discriminated against.”]]>

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