EEOC Sues for Transgender Discrimination

October 6, 2017

Recent action by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has raised the specter of whether transgender persons are considered protected under the federal discrimination laws.  The EEOC has sued a company in Denver that allegedly discriminated against a transgender man who applied for a position as manager.  This case addresses the question whether a transgender person is protected under federal sex discrimination laws.

The company, A & E Tire, Inc., was sued by the EEOC alleging the company discriminated against a transgender man who applied for a manager position.  The person was essentially given the position subject to a background check.  During the background check, it was discovered the individual was born as a female but was presenting as a male.  The individual seemed very qualified for the manager job but when it was discovered the individual was actually born a female, the company withdrew the offer of employment and hired someone else.

The EEOC is seeking an injunction that would require the company to hire this employee.  The case is moving through the federal court system in Colorado and will become a test case for interpreting federal discrimination laws.  The best practice right now is to avoid any type of employment decision based upon transgender status of an employee.

Contrary to the position taken by the EEOC, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recently indicated that it is the position of the Department of Justice that transgender discrimination is not protected under federal laws.  There has been no reaction from the EEOC regarding this statement; however, it juxtaposes the Department of Justice against the EEOC as to whether or not transgender employees will receive the same protections as other employees under federal law.  We are certain to see more information about this in the future.

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