As we blogged about in December, the federal Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Florida, Georgia and Alabama) recently found that transgender employees are protected against job discrimination pursuant to the Equal Protection Clause, which only applies to public sector employees. Whether or not the same protection was available under Title VII, which applies to the private sector, remained an open issue. See post, Federal Court to Georgia: Transgender Employees Are Protected. On April 20, 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) addressed this issue and found that transgender workers are indeed protected under Title VII. See decision.
Mia Macy, a former soldier and policy officer who recently transitioned from male to female, filed a formal complaint with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) alleging that she was denied a job as a ballistics technician by ATF because of her sex, gender identity and sex stereotyping. Macy appealed an administrative procedure in place that allowed ATF to treat her complaint differently (and with less rights) than a traditional Title VII complaint. The EEOC agreed to adjudicate her claims under the same administrative procedure as other complaints because it found that “gender identity,” “change of sex,” and/or “transgender status” fell under the broader protected class of “sex” pursuant to Title VII.
While the EEOC’s decision only concerned a jurisdictional issue and is only binding on the federal sector, the decision highlights the fact that there has “been a steady stream of district court decisions recognizing that discrimination against transgender individuals on the basis of sex stereotyping constitutes discrimination because of sex.” A federal court could likewise find that a transgender individual would be protected from discrimination in the private sector.