Trans Workers Win Landmark Discrimination Suits
12:30 pm, July 16th | by Colette McIntyre
In a historic first, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided in favor of transgender employees who said they were discriminated against based on their gender identity. One case in particular founded a crucial precedent when the EEOC determined that anti-trans* discrimination is a violation of an employee’s rights as protected by the ban on sexual discrimination found in Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964.
Earlier this month, in the case known as Macy v. Holder, the Department of Justice ruled in favor of the plaintiff, Mia Macy, who was denied a job at a laboratory of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives (ATF) after she revealed she was transgender.
Macy was told in January 2011 that she had been selected for a position at an ATF laboratory yet, upon disclosing in March 2011 that she was beginning her transition from male to female, the contractor canceled her hire. Later, Macy discovered that someone else received the job.
Initially Macy’s discrimination complaint was rejected by the ATF’s equal employment opportunity office; the office claimed that anti-transgender discrimination was not covered under Title VII. Upon Macy’s appeal, the case was sent to the EEOC. In April 2012, the EEOC commissioners ruled without dissent that the law’s ban on sexual discrimination covers claims based on transgender status.
Macy told BuzzFeed that the Justice Department’s ruling was “validation”: “I never thought in my life that it would be over, but to have it not only be over but to have them say, ‘Yes, unfortunately, your civil rights were violated. They did do this.’ To have that vindication, it’s surreal,” she said.
Not only did the Justice Department rule that the ATF must offer Macy the job she wrongfully lost, award her back pay and benefits — with interest, and refund her attorney fees, but, as the Washington Blade reports, the department must also “take corrective action to ensure future discrimination never occurs again.”
Due to the major victory for trans* rights in Macy v. Holder, a similar case has been determined in favor of a trans woman who was verbally and physically harassed at her job with a Maryland federal contractor.
While many of the case’s details, including the names of the parties involved, have been withheld in accordance with the settlement, it’s known that the woman filed a complaint with the EEOC last year, alleging that co-workers were physically and verbally harassing her. According to the LGBT groups Freedom to Work and Lambda Legal, which represented the plaintiff, she suffered from name-calling such as being called “tranny,” “drag queen,” and “faggot.”
The Justice Department declared that the woman’s supervisors created a hostile work environment by failing to act after being informed of the harassment, thus violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, shared celebratory words with the Advocate: “We applaud the EEOC for conducting such a thorough investigation and interviewing so many witnesses to the anti-transgender harassment,” said Almeida. ““Coming just a few months after the EEOC issued its historic decision that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC’s reasonable cause determination in this case is, to our knowledge, the first time in history that the EEOC has investigated allegations of anti-transgender harassment and ruled for the transgender employee. This case shows that the EEOC takes very seriously its role in protecting LGBT Americans’ freedom to work.”
Greg Nevins, supervising staff attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office in Atlanta, says these cases demonstrate the importance of federal directives prohibiting LGBT discrimination and protecting workers, as he told the Blade: ““We need action by the 113th Congress to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and even more immediately, President Obama should sign the executive order banning LGBT discrimination by companies that profit from federal contracts. That executive order should have broad support across the political spectrum, since federal dollars should neither fund discrimination nor go to employers whose personnel and productivity suffer because discrimination and harassment are tolerated.”