Justice Department: Employers Cannot Discriminate Against Transgender People

By Albert Lin

Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo on Thursday instructing all Department of Justice component heads and U.S. Attorneys to support claims by transgender people in Title VII employee-discrimination cases.

This reverses the DOJ’s previous position, stated in 2006 litigation, that Title VII’s sex-discrimination clause excluded discrimination based on gender identity.

“This important shift will ensure that the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extended to those who suffer discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” Holder said.”This will help to foster fair and consistent treatment for all claimants.And it reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Americans.”

The memo is the latest action by the Obama administration to increase protections or the LGBT community. In July, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

However, Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, says this move was essentially a formalitythe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken this position since 2012.

“It’s just another message to employers, whether they are public employers or private employers, that it is illegal in every state in this country to discriminate against transgender people in employment,” Keisling told The Associated Press.

In the memo, Holder writes: “The federal government’s approach to this issue has also evolved over time. After considering the text of Title VII, the relevant Supreme Court case law interpreting the statute, and the developing jurisprudence in this area, I have determined that the best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.”

He concludes: “My hope is that this clarification of the Department’s position will foster consistent treatment of claimants throughout the government, in furtherance of this this Department’s commitment to fair and impartial justice for all Americans.”

The DOJ will now be able to bring legal claims on behalf of transgender workers who believe they have been discriminated against by employers because of their gender identity.

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