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A New First for the EEOC

Post by: Tremain C. Mattress

A couple of weeks ago, the EEOC filed its first ever lawsuits over alleged sex discrimination against transgender individuals.  In both lawsuits, transgender workers were fired for being transgender and not conforming to the employer’s gender-based expectations.   Both cases involve employees who were transitioning from male to female.  Although this is the first time the EEOC has pursued a case of this nature, this is not the first time that these types of cases have been litigated.  For example, in 2012, the Eleventh Circuit upheld a summary judgment victory for Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn, who claimed that her firing from her job as an editor with the Georgia General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Counsel because of her intended transition from male to female was sex discrimination and violated her constitutional rights.

The good news for employees is that the EEOC is finally focusing on the rights of gay and transgender employees.  Historically, the EEOC did not have enforcement authority over discriminatory acts involving gay and transgender employees.  However, in 2012, in Macy v. Holder, the EEOC issued a landmark decision in which it found that discrimination against transgender individuals constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.  In light of that decision, the EEOC has made the coverage of gay and transgender people a top enforcement priority under its strategic plan.

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