Federal discrimination laws extended to transgender people

Frank S. Clowney III

On Dec. 18, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department is now interpreting workplace discrimination laws as prohibiting discrimination against people who are transgender. Consequently, transgender people who have been subjected to discrimination in California state and local public employer workplaces may now utilize the help of the Justice Department in order to bring discrimination claims.

The expansion to encompass workers under state and federal laws who are transgender comes on the heels of an earlier expansion granted to federal employees in July. Those protections, announced by President Barack Obama, prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender workers who are federal government employees or who work for employers who hold federal contracts.

The new announcement similarly expands protections to all public employees, regardless of whether they work for the federal government or not. The Justice Department still will not have the ability to sue private employers, however. The change in stance is a reversal of an announcement made in 2006 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not cover transgender workers. The announcement apparently affirms the stances held by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Education Department.

People should not have to endure discrimination due to their status as a gay or transgender worker. The announcement serves as a reminder to all employers that allowing workplace discrimination is wrong. Prohibited discriminatory actions incorporate all employment actions, including such actions as refusing to hire, harassment, denying advancements or promotions, compensation and bonuses and others. Employers have long been forbidden from discriminating against workers based on national origin, race, gender, color and disability status. Expanding the coverage to include workers who face discrimination due to their transgender status is an important step.

Source: ABC News, “US Announces Protections for Transgender Workers”, December 18, 2014