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May 4. 2012

Job bias laws protect TG people, says U.S. agency

Washington, D.C.--The federal workplace civil rights agency unanimously decided on April 23 that U.S. job equality laws include transgender people.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held that the sexual discrimination clause known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The ruling was issued in the case of Mia Macy, a transgender woman who was denied employment with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. She applied for a position as a ballistics technician in a California ATF lab as a man, and was told she was going to get it. However, after revealing that she was in transition, the office told her that funding for the position had been cut, then hired another person for the job.

Macy was a police detective in Phoenix, Arizona, as well as an Army veteran. Before revealing her transgender status, she was contacted by the contractor hired to fill the position to begin paperwork and undergo the background check. She informed them of her change in gender, and asked them to inform the director of the ATF lab on April 3, 2011. Five days later, she was contacted again by the contractor and told that federal budget cuts had eliminated the position.

Macy and her attorney filed a complaint with the ATF, alleging sex discrimination. She later took the complaint to the EEOC.

“The Commission hereby clarifies that claims of discrimination based on transgender status, also referred to as claims of discrimination based on gender identity, are cognizable under Title VII’s sex discrimination prohibition,” the commission wrote, taking the ATF to task for trying to separate allegations of anti-transgender discrimination from discrimination based on sex.

“That Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination proscribes gender discrimination, and not just discrimination on the basis of biological sex, is important,” the ruling continues. “If Title VII proscribed only discrimination on the basis of biological sex, the only prohibited gender-based disparate treatment would be when an employer prefers a man over a woman, or vice versa. But the statute’s protections sweep far broader than that, in part because the term ‘gender’ encompasses not only a person’s biological sex but also the cultural and social aspects associated with masculinity and femininity.”

“This ruling is a major advancement in transgender rights that will provide a significant tool to fight discrimination,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “It will also help us advocate for still-needed protections like the [LGBT] Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the federal contractors executive order.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, pointed out how such discrimination can have a snowball effect, completely shattering people’s lives.

“She [Macy] and her family moved from Phoenix to the Bay Area because of a job offer,” she said. “After the job was taken away, they couldn’t afford to keep up their house payments, and their home was foreclosed on. This has been devastating. This is no way to live, and the EEOC’s ruling will go a long way toward addressing such injustices.”

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