Commentary

12.31.14

Federal Government Says No to Transgender Workplace Discrimination

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An important announcement just happened that you may have missed.

Transgender workers on the payroll of state and local public employers are now officially protected against workplace discrimination. The U.S. Department of Justice will be able to bring suit on behalf of people who say they have been discriminated against by public employers on the basis of gender identity.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced this decision in a memo earlier this month, marking a change in federal policy.  Although protections for transgender people had been positively decided by other government agencies, a 2006 policy had said that the attorney general did not think these kinds of protections existed.

Civil Rights Act 

This decision is based on a new interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

According to Holder, “The federal government’s approach to this issue has also evolved over time.” Additionally, he wrote, “I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’ s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.”

This move was championed by the Obama administration to further extend workplace rights to transgender employees, reported the AP. In July, President Obama ordered employment protection for gay and transgender individuals who work for the federal government or for companies holding federal contracts.

While this is great news and a step closer to affording basic rights to transgender individuals, Ohio and the nation still have a long way to go. When it comes to private employers, the bottom line is that you can be fired from your job for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

To learn more about transgender rights, visit national ACLU’s website.

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