Posted on January 24, 2017 in Workplace Harassment
Workplace discrimination based on gender identity arises when employers show unfair treatment towards the transgender employees. Gender identity discrimination can take many forms including firing a transgender employee once the employer gets wind of their gender identity, denying transgender employees access to restroom facilities, or harassment of transgender employees by fellow workers. Though transgender discrimination at work is not expressly prohibited by current federal laws, there are state and local discrimination agencies that offer protections against gender identity discrimination.
Transgender is a term used to describe individuals whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal sense of being either a man or a woman. Sexual orientation is different from gender identity because it refers to a person’s physical, emotional or romantic attraction towards another person. Transgender individuals also have a sexual orientation the same as everybody else which means they may either be straight, bisexual, gay, or lesbian.
Currently, there are no federal laws protecting the LGBT community against discrimination in the workplace. However, some states have made efforts to protect their citizens against transgender discrimination. Colorado, California, Illinois, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, and Washington are some of the States that have laws against transgender discrimination. The protections offered to transgender people vary depending on the state you are in. For example, in Nevada, there are laws that prohibit discrimination of transgender people in public accommodation, housing, and employment. In Maine, the laws on transgender discrimination cover all these areas plus access to education and credit.
Some laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation protect transgender people. The laws against discrimination of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in Illinois, Minnesota, and Colorado include gender identity in their definition of sexual orientation. Therefore, in these states, transgender people are afforded the same rights against discrimination as lesbian, gay, and bi-sexual people.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is against sexual discrimination of employees. Although many court decisions hold that the law does not apply to gender identity discrimination, a few federal appeal courts that recently ruled on the issue found several protections for transgender discrimination at work in the act. Additionally, a recent federal district court ruling in Washington held that discriminating against an employer for transitioning to another gender is tantamount to sex discrimination as per the Civil Rights Act. The ruling led the Attorney General to declare in 2014 that the Department of Justice would consider transgender discrimination to be sexual discrimination and a violation of the employment law.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, also called ENDA, is currently being considered for federal legislation. The Act is fashioned after civil rights statutes such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If the act is passed, it will protect transgender employees from being fired or denied jobs or promotions due to their gender identity.
The first step to take if you face transgender discrimination at work is to collect evidence. Evidence includes photographs, emails, or something physical. It also includes taking notes when a co-worker or superior discriminates against, abuses, or harasses you. A detailed journal is more persuasive than attempting to recall an occurrence that happened in the past.
Before pursuing legal action against the one who has discriminated against you, first pass your complaint to your employer. It is advisable to address your complaint in writing so that the document can be used as evidence in case your employer fails to respond to your grievance. If your employer disregards your complaint, your next step should be to seek legal counsel from a San Diego employment attorney. Our firm offers free consultations so if you’d like us to review your case, send us an email or call Walker Law at (619) 839-9978 to schedule your free consultation.
Whether or not you have secured the services of a lawyer, you should file your complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will investigate your claims and either take action on your behalf or present you with a letter giving you the right to pursue legal action against your employer in federal court. EEOC cases should be filed within a period of 180 days from the time you experienced discrimination.