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Transgender Man Wins Employment Discrimination Suit

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on December 20, 2016 10:15 AM

Not all businesses are accustomed to having transgender employees. Still, there are better and worse ways to treat your transgender staff. The best way is to respect their gender identity and treat them just like the rest of your employees. The worst way is to drag a transgender man into an office and force him to sign a document acknowledging that his "preference to act and dress as a male, despite having been born a female" violates your company's policies.

Not only would that be morally reprehensible, but it will get you sued. And, like First Tower Loan LLC, you'd likely lose that lawsuit.

A Lesson in What Not to Do

When Tristan Broussard was hired at Tower Loan in 2013, he was required to provide a driver's license, a license that said he was female. Though Broussard identifies as male and told Tower at the time he was a transgender man, a company vice president told Broussard that he must dress as a woman and he was asked to sign an acknowledgment that his gender identity violated company policy and acquiescing to share hotel rooms with women if traveling overnight for business.

Instead, Broussard resigned and filed a discrimination lawsuit against Tower Loans, a suit that was later joined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In November, an arbitrator sided with Broussard, stating that he "involuntarily resigned in order to escape an intolerable and illegal employment requirement imposed by the corporate office -- that he act and dress only as a female pursuant to [the company's] personnel policies."

Gender Discrimination and Sex Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, protects transgender workers. The EEOC has interpreted Title VII to also prohibit employers from firing or refusing to hire employees because they are transgender. The EEOC guidance also bars employers from discriminating against transgender employees based on sex-stereotypes or gender norms, which it seems clear that Tower was engaged in doing.

Not only is refusing to recognize and respect a transgender person's gender identity insensitive, it could also be illegal -- bad for business and the bottom line.

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