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Ex-employee sues Saks for transgender discrimination

Some readers from New York may be interested to learn that Saks & Co. is facing criticism over a discrimination lawsuit. Media sources say that an ex-employee was allegedly fired from Saks for issues related to her transgender status. In its defense, Saks issued a filing requesting the lawsuit's dismissal because the employee is not entitled to Title VII protection under the Civil Rights Act.

According to a representative of Saks, the company has a long history of supporting LGBT issues and does not feel that its actions in this case were discriminatory. Though the filing by Saks indicates that transgender individuals are not entitled to Title VII protection, Attorney General Eric Holder recently amended the policies of the Department of Justice to emphasize just the opposite. Human Rights Campaign, a prominent civil rights group devoted to LGBT issues, has reportedly docked Saks rating in its Corporate Equality Index in response to the filing.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act provides for protections based upon gender, but the Saks filing suggests that they do not believe the ex-employee's transsexual status satisfies the "gender" standard as understood by the Act. In addition, the filing submitted by Saks' attorney reportedly utilized language that may have suggested skepticism about the employee's identification as a woman.

The apparent disagreement over the language of the Civil Rights Act might be illustrative of the sorts of ambiguities that can sometimes arise in employment disputes such as this one. An employee that feels they were subject to wrongful termination due to discrimination may benefit from seeking legal representation to consult and represent their case. It may be necessary in some situations to thoroughly review the company's policies and any applicable laws to determine whether an employee may be entitled to receive compensation.

Source: Business Week, "Saks Claims It Has the Right to Discriminate Against Transgender Employees," Josh Eidelson, Jan. 9, 2015

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