Without administration's support, EEOC sues employer for transgender discrimination
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued A&E Tire, Inc., a Colorado automotive service chain, for refusing to hire a job applicant because of his transgender status. EEOC says the adverse action amounted to sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- According to the commission, the employer offered the applicant a services manager's position pending successful completion of a background screening. The paperwork requested information about his sex and any former names used. Upon learning that he was transgender and had used another name typically associated with the female sex in the past, the employer chose someone else for the position, EEOC alleges.
- The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, back pay and injunctive relief.
EEOC maintains that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on both sexual orientation and transgender status because they amount to sex discrimination.
Following President Donald Trump's election, the federal government made its disagreement clear and has opposed EEOC, an independent federal agency, in a sexual orientation case. One federal appeals court agrees with EEOC's position, and another seems ready to do so. The U.S. Supreme Court also has been asked to weigh in on the issue.
EEOC Commissioner Jenny Yang recently told HR Dive that there's no going back now."[W]e can't turn back the clock on people's rights and on progress for equality. I think that it is important that employers continue to have inclusive policies," she said. Employment law attorneys seem to agree, recommending that employers add LGBT employees to their EEO policies.
The argument against EEOC's position is narrow and only applies in cases where gender stereotyping played no role in the alleged discrimination. Because of this narrow legal argument — and EEOC's continued enforcement efforts — employers may want to take steps to ensure they're not discriminating against applicants and employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.