LOS ANGELES - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided clear direction to its staff, government officers and private employers yesterday when it found workplace discrimination on the basis of a person's gender identity or expression violates the federal prohibition on sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"Recent research has highlighted significant workplace discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and this ruling is an essential step towards providing all transgender workers a path for redress," said Jody L. Herman, Manager of Transgender Research and Peter J. Cooper Fellow at the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute.
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, co-authored by Herman, found high levels of discrimination based on anti-transgender bias, including:
Double the rate of unemployment: Survey respondents experienced unemployment at twice the rate of the general population at the time of the survey.
Widespread mistreatment at work: Ninety percent (90%) of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it.
Forty-seven percent (47%) said they had experienced an adverse job outcome, such as being fired, not hired or denied a promotion because of being transgender or gender non-conforming.
More than one-quarter (26%) reported that they had lost a job due to being transgender or gender non-conforming and 50% were harassed.
While a number of federal courts and legal scholars have previously found the federal employment law, Title VII, applies to gender identity or expression discrimination, the EEOC opinion means as a practical matter that workers who face such discrimination should no longer be turned away when trying to file an EEOC complaint, which is the necessary first step when seeking to enforce one's rights under Title VII.
"This opinion from the nation's top civil rights officials provides clarity and consistency both for the EEOC and for employers and their human resource officers, who must abide by Title VII," said Jennifer C. Pizer, Legal Director and Arnold D. Kassoy Senior Scholar of Law. "The opinion will serve the essential function of ensuring that EEOC staff coast to coast, others charged with ensuring equal opportunity in federal employment and programs, and state and local officials now all can share a clear understanding that sex discrimination prohibitions protect transgender people," said Pizer.
In addition to confirming what courts and legal scholars have previously said, the ruling also follows an increasingly common practice in corporate America. More than 70 percent of Fortune 50 companies already prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and many who prioritize reduction of discrimination as a means to improve workplace dynamics and productivity have recognized that discrimination against transgender job applicants and workers is an improper form of sex discrimination. The EEOC opinion sets a clear rule for the entire private sector, such that the standards already adopted by many leading companies can be more easily understood and adopted by others.
For more information on discrimination arising from anti-transgender bias, see The National Transgender Discrimination Survey at www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/ntds_full.pdf .