The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that employment discrimination based on gender identity is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. From Metro Weekly:
The EEOC decision, issued without objection by the five-member, bipartisan commission, will apply to all EEOC enforcement and litigation activities at the commission and in its 53 field offices throughout the country. It also will be binding on all federal agencies and departments.
In the decision, the EEOC states, ”[T]he 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 EEOC released their decision in connection to the case of Mia Macy, who was denied employment after the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) learned she was trans.
The EEOC will now hear claims of gender-identity discrimination, and can even sue employers. Dr. Jillian Weiss, who is a lawyer and understands the details way better than I possibly could, has a great explanation of the ruling at Bilerico.
This is huge. Trans and gender non-conforming people face staggering rates of employment discrimination. 47% of respondents to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey experienced an adverse job outcome because they were trans or gender non-conforming, including being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion. 90% of respondents experienced harassment on the job. The unemployment rate among respondents was double the national average – four times the national average for people of color.
From Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center:
”We hear from 1,500 people a year who are experiencing discrimination, and our attorneys work every day to help out everyone who calls and make sure they have the legal information and support they need to be successful.”
President Obama has refused to to release an executive order banning sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination among federal employers. Apparently, he cares more about political theater than making an immediate difference in people’s lives. The administration has said the right course to take is through Congress. But the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is completely stalled. Seriously, can you imagine if all major civil rights decisions had to start in Congress?
It may seem strange to some readers that this is such a big deal in 2012. But it is. This ruling could make a huge difference in trans and gender non-conforming people’s lives. With this decision, the EEOC is saying we deserve the same protections as any other covered group. It is acknowledging the reality of the discrimination we face, and saying we deserve better. It’s saying we count.