Saturday, October 25, 2014

EEOC sues over transgender discrimination

Why it matters: In its first cases alleging bias against transgender employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against a Florida eye clinic and a Michigan funeral home. In both actions an employee began the process of transitioning from male to female and both employers reacted by terminating the employees at issue, according to the EEOC. Although the Florida employer claimed the position was being eliminated, it hired a new employee soon after, while the agency said the funeral home director told the employee what she was proposing to do was “unacceptable.” The EEOC alleged that the employers engaged in discriminatory sex-based considerations because the employees were transgender, transitioning in gender, and/or because the employees did not conform to the employer’s sex- or gender-based stereotypes, preferences, or expectations. The two lawsuits reiterate the EEOC’s intent to focus on “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals” as part of its Strategic Enforcement Plan. Employers should be prepared to avoid allegations of discrimination if an employee identifies as transgender or, like the plaintiffs in the EEOC suits, states an intent to transition.

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