By Todd Etshman
Dolan Media Newswires
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups are praising the recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision in Macy v. Holder (appeal no. 0120120821), to extend Title VII employment discrimination protection to transgender individuals.
“Applying Title VII in this manner does not create a new ‘class’ of people covered under Title VII,” Acting Executive Officer Bernadette Wilson said in the April 20 decision. “Rather, it would simply be the result of applying the plain language of a statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion to practical situations in which such characteristics are unlawfully taken into account.”
“It’s a clear message from the EEOC, the authority that oversees Title VII non-discrimination, that discrimination against transgender people is illegal under Title VII,” said Christopher Argyros, attorney and Empire State Pride Agenda Transgender Rights organizer, of Albany. “There was confusion before this as to whether they should be protected under sex discrimination laws but this decision clarifies that confusion.”
The case involved a discrimination complaint filed by the Transgender Law Center in California on behalf of Mia Macy, a transgender woman who was denied a job at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Macy was told funding for the position she applied for had been cut when in fact another person had been hired.
“When an employer discriminates against someone because the person is transgender, the employer has engaged in disparate treatment related to the sex of the victim,” Wilson said in the decision. “This is true regardless of whether an employer discriminates against an employee because the individual has expressed his or her gender in a non-stereotypical fashion, because the employer is uncomfortable with the fact that the person has transitioned or is in the process of transitioning from one gender to another, or because the employer simply does not like that the person is identifying as a transgender person.”
Argyros said that language represents the significance of the decision.
“That covers every aspect of being transgender from the initial announcement through transition and after,” he said.
The decision follows a trend by federal courts giving transgender persons Title VII protection against sex discrimination but carries more weight coming from the agency charged with enforcing discrimination law.
“Having the protection of federal sex-discrimination law is especially critical for transgender people who live in the 34 states without laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination based upon gender identity or expression,” Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said in a statement.
The Macy decision is only binding on federal agencies, but LGBT representatives hope the decision’s holding will spread to states without similar protection.