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Transgender woman settles workplace harassment lawsuit

A government contractor along the East Coast has settled an employment discrimination lawsuit that was brought on behalf of a transgender woman. The woman had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found in 2012 that reasonable cause exists that the company violated federal civil rights laws that prohibit sex discrimination in the workplace.

The woman says that she endured unlawful sexual harassment for two years while employed by the government contractor. She says that co-workers and supervisors frequently made derogatory remarks aimed at the woman and her gender identity. While the case did not arise in New York, the story is being noted here, as across the country among employment law attorneys.

The company denies any wrongdoing, but has agreed to settle the sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit.

It should be noted that human rights laws that expressly ban harassment of transgender workers are rather spotty across the nation. However, some courts have in recent years found that federal sex discrimination or other state laws prohibiting discrimination include a prohibition against the harassment of a transgender worker.

The EEOC issued an opinion last year finding that discrimination based upon gender identity violates federal civil rights protections that prohibit sex discrimination in the workplace.

Any form of unlawful harassment in the workplace can cause a victim of the conduct to suffer harm. The effects of harassment can be stressful. Federal anti-discrimination laws (and New York human rights laws for that matter) are aimed at protecting workers from discriminatory practices. Harassment is a form of discrimination, whether the harassment is based upon many recognized factors ranging from gender to race and beyond.

Workers in New York who have experienced workplace harassment or retaliation for complaining about a hostile work environment may wish to consult with a Suffolk County employment law attorney to learn what protections the law affords to workers.

Source: Metro Weekly, “Breakthrough EEOC Settlement in Maryland,” John Riley, July 17, 2013

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