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EEOC rules in Title VII Transgender Discrimination Case

Tags:  (2015 Apr 16th)

On April 1, 2015, in a 3-2 decision, the EEOC ruled that the U.S. Army committed sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by refusing to let a transgender employee use facilities that accord with her consistent gender presentation.

Tamara Lusardi, a transgender woman, who works for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) in Alabama, alleged that the U.S. Army discriminated against her on the basis of her sex during her transition. AMRDEC refused to let Lusardi use the female restroom and instead forced her to use the single-sex staff restroom. Additionally, Lusardi’s supervisor intentionally continued to address her using male pronouns or her previous name and outed her as trans to people who did not know she was transgender. The EEOC found that the Army’s actions “isolated and segregated her from other persons of her gender” and that her supervisor’s actions “compounded that discrimination and sent the message that Ms. Lusardi was unworthy of basic respect and dignity because she is a transgender individual.”

The EEOC rejected AMRDEC’s argument that they were protecting other employees from feeling uncomfortable by requiring Lusardi to use the single-sex restroom. The agency stated that “allowing the preferences of co-workers to determine whether sex discrimination is valid reinforces the very stereotypes and prejudices that Title VII is intended to overcome.”

As a result, the Army has to allow Lusardi to use female restrooms, put in place procedures to prevent further discrimination against trans employees, and provide at least eight hours of gender discrimination training to employees in Lusardi’s department. After an additional investigation, the Army will also have to compensate Lusardi for the discrimination she suffered.

Lusardi’s case represents a larger movement within the Administration to protect transgender individuals and to interpret Title VII to include discrimination on the basis of gender identity. In a narrow ruling in 2012, the EEOC declared that Title VII covers trans people and subsequent EEOC rulings have supported that interpretation. This is the first ruling that specifically states that common transgender discrimination in the workplace, such as harassment or misgendering, are also unlawful under Title VII.

Last year, the Administration made it clear that it believes that Title VII covers transgender people based on their actual or perceived gender identity. President Obama signed an executive order that prohibits firing or harassment of federal contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity and bans discrimination against transgender federal employees. The directive officially went into effect on April 15, the same day that the White House installed its first gender neutral bathroom.