DOJ to Allow Claims Based on Gender Identity Discrimination
On Dec. 18, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released an opinion allowing a worker to file a discrimination claim based on the individual’s gender identity, including transgender status.
We wrote about Family Discrimination and how it can affect your company, this is a new emerging risk leaders need to be aware of.
In a reversal of a previous finding, the DOJ decided that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act extends to discrimination claims based on an individual’s gender identity, including transgender status. Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin when making employment decisions.
Gender identity is an individual’s internal sense of being male or female. An individual’s internal identification may or may not correspond to the individual’s biological gender. Transgender individuals are people with a gender identity that is different from the sex assigned to them at birth.
The DOJ’s authority to file discrimination lawsuits is limited to government employers. However, this announcement is significant because it further solidifies the federal government’s position on gender identity rights, following a 2014 executive order and a 2012 ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protecting gender identity.
The EEOC subsequently sued a Florida eye clinic and Michigan funeral home over the provision, in the first actions in its history challenging transgender discrimination under Title VII.
Employers can expect to see more individuals file claims based on gender identity discrimination, as well as increased federal support for employee protections against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Moreover, a more unified federal government position on this issue may influence courts and state governments to adopt similar positions when claims are filed against employers in the private sector.