Landmark EEOC Ruling a Game Changer for Transgender Workers

Pride Foundation volunteers (and board members) Erin Lennon and Seth Kirby take a look at the recent EEOC ruling and how it will impact our community and the work of the Shareholder Advocacy Committee.

With the knowledge that 90 percent of transgender individuals have experienced harassment or mistreatment on the job or took actions to avoid it, Pride Foundation staff and volunteers were excited to learn of the landmark unanimous Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruling issued in April. The EEOC announced that discrimination on the basis of “gender identity, change of sex, and/or transgender status” is discrimination on the basis of sex and thus protected under federal law.

The EEOC enforces federal laws against employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age. Unfortunately, there are no federal laws that specifically prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity/ expression. Until now, the EEOC has refused to recognize gender identity discrimination as a form of sex discrimination, but in its recent Macy v. Holder decision, it reversed that position.

In the Macy v. Holder case, Mia Macy, a transgender woman and former police detective applied to work for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. At the time of the interview, she was assured a job upon completion of the background check. Later in the process, she explained that she was in the process of transitioning her gender, and then was told the position was no longer available. With help from the Transgender Law Center, she asked the EEOC to investigate the incident as discrimination on the basis of gender identity. In its ruling, the EEOC agreed that discrimination on the basis of gender identity, change of gender, or transgender status is a form of sex discrimination subject to protection by the EEOC.

EEOC’s ruling provides crucial protections for individuals living in 34 states without transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination laws, including three states Pride Foundation serves: Alaska, Idaho, and Montana. Legal protections are critical in protecting our community from harassment and discrimination, and are a crucial pillar in influencing true cultural change where the contributions and rights of transgender people can be fully recognized.

Pride Foundation has been working across our five-state region to advance equality in the workplace through our shareholder advocacy efforts. More recently, our Shareholder Advocacy Committee has asked companies to add gender identity/expression protections to their policies that frequently already include sexual orientation protections.

The EEOC ruling strengthens Pride Foundation’s case for companies to include transgender protections in their policies. Adding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to employment policies is not only the right thing to do; it is good for business and can save a lot of time and money. Proactive policy changes can prevent loss of skilled employees and can prevent costly litigation.

Pride Foundation uses its endowment for more than grants and scholarships; it is also used to bring equality to the companies in which we invest through shareholder advocacy. To date we have worked with more than dozen companies such as Walmart, McDonald’s, and Amgen, to update their non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression.

Pride Foundation applauds the EEOC’s decision. It is an important step on the road to LGBTQ equality.

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