Transgender Workers Now a Protected Class, EEOC Rules - Free Enterprise
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Transgender Workers Now a Protected Class, EEOC Rules

Don't discriminate against transgender employees or job applicants.

Up until now, this bit of advice likely would have been rooted in morality. But now, it comes straight from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency tasked with interpreting federal employment discrimination laws. And according to a new ruling issued by the Commission, transgender discrimination is prohibited Title VII.

So if you engage in such discrimination, the agency may come knocking on your door.

Though the Commission's ruling is not binding on the courts, it will influence how the EEOC and state agencies enforce Title VII. Additionally, the ruling itself was influenced by how the federal courts have tackled the issue of transgender discrimination in the last two decades.

Supreme Court precedent affirmatively states that sex stereotyping, including those stereotypes based on gender norms, are prohibited by Title VII. Like many appellate courts before it, the EEOC has applied this rule to transgender individuals.

Whether motivated by hostility, gender stereotypes or "to accommodate other people's prejudices or discomfort ... discrimination against a transgender individual because that person is transgender is, by definition, discrimination 'based on ...sex,'" wrote the Commission.

On its face, the ruling ends here. However, it has additional implications for gay employees. The Commission wrote, "[E]vidence that an employer has acted based on stereotypes about how men and women should act" can serve as a basis for a discrimination claim. It also explained that the law does not tolerate discrimination based on "the cultural and social aspects associated with masculinity and femininity."

These statements could arguably be applied to sexual orientation in the workplace. So not only should employers educate themselves about transgender discrimination, it might be a wise idea to read up on sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace.

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