Individuals in New York may be aware that since 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has included transgender people as one of the groups protected against workplace discrimination, but now the federal government is changing its interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 2006, the Justice Department said Title VII did not apply to discrimination against transgender people, but it has reversed that decision. It is now asserting that it will now bring claims on behalf of state and local government transgender employees who are asserting that they have been subject to discrimination, and will no longer maintain its position that Title VII does not apply.
Attorney General Eric Holder released the memo on Dec. 18 explaining the new position of the Justice Department on transgender employees. Until now, in defending lawsuits, the Justice Department has argued that Title VII does not cover gender status in cases dealing with workplace discrimination.
President Obama has been slowly working to eliminate discrimination against transgender employees. Since July, transgender and gay employees of companies that hold federal contracts as well as federal workers have been protected against discrimination.
Transgender individuals who face workplace discrimination now have more protection. Those individuals who feel that they have been discriminated against due to being transgender or as part of any other protected class may wish to begin by reporting the discrimination to their supervisor or employer. If this is unsuccessful or they feel that they are being retaliated against for making the report, it may be advisable to consult with an employment law attorney to determine the next steps that should be taken.
Source: ABC News, "US Announces Protections for Transgender Workers", December 18, 2014