In Landmark Ruling, Feds Add Transgendered to Anti-Discrimination Law

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Wednesday April 25, 2012

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled Monday that the federal discrimination law will now protect employees based on gender identity. Employers who discriminate against an employee or potential employee will now be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The EEOC said, "intentional discrimination against a transgender individual because that person is transgender is, by definition, discrimination 'based on ... sex' and such discrimination ... violates Title VII."

This marks the first time the organization has offered a clear guide on gender identity discrimination.

The ruling is a result from a discrimination complaint filed by the Transgender Law Center for Mia Macy -- a transgender woman who was refused a job as a ballistics technician for a the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Macy, a veteran and former police detective, says she applied for the position when she was still a male and was told that the job was practically hers. A statement from the Transgender Law Center says Macy "was exceptionally qualified for the position, having a military and law enforcement background and being one of the few people in the country who had already been trained on ATF's ballistics computer system."

But after she disclosed her gender during the hiring process, Macy was told that funding for the position had been cut but she later discovered that someone else filled the job.

"As a veteran and a police officer, I've worked my whole career to uphold the values of fairness and equality," Macy said in a statement. "Although the discrimination I experienced was painful both personally and financially, and led to the loss of my family's home to foreclosure, I'm proud to be a part of this groundbreaking decision confirming that our nation's employment discrimination laws protect all Americans, including transgender people. I'm grateful for the help of Transgender Law Center, which believed in me from the start and helped guide me through this process. No one should be denied a job just for being who they are."

Several LGBT rights organizations applauded EEOC's ruling.

"This ruling is a major step forward in protecting the LGBT community from workplace discrimination," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We know that transgender people are among the most vulnerable members of our community and suffer widespread discrimination, including in employment. We applaud the EEOC for its historic ruling, congratulate Transgender Law Center on this victory and thank Mia Macy for her courage and perseverance."

"This is a historic victory for transgender people and their families -- and it couldn't come too soon," Rea Carey of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said. "Our national survey on transgender discrimination found staggering levels of workplace discrimination against transgender Americans. This jeopardizes their ability to have or keep a job, have a roof over their head, and feed and take care of their family."

The National Center for Transgender Equality congratulated the Transgender Law Center in a statement.

"This ruling is a major advancement in transgender rights that will provide a significant tool to fight discrimination," the organization's executive director Mara Keisling said. "It will also help us advocate for still needed protections like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the federal contractors executive order."

Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center called the decision a "game changer."

"With so many barriers to gainful employment in our society, we can't let discrimination be one of them. The EEOC's decision ensures that every transgender person in the United States will have legal recourse when faced with employment discrimination," Davis said. "Having the protection of federal law is especially critical for transgender people who live in the 34 states that lack transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. This is a game changer for transgender America."