“Historic” Transgender Employee Rights Case Finds Employer Discriminated

Transgender worker rights have come under attack in recent years, with President Donald Trump’s recent ban on transgender military members upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and a memo issued last year by the Department of Health and Human Services urging key agencies to adopt definitions of gender that are uniform, explicit, unchangeable and determined by the genitals with which a person was born.

But Los Angeles transgender discrimination attorneys took note of a recent bright spot.Los Angeles gender discrimination

Jurors in Iowa ruled in a transgender discrimination civil lawsuit that the warden of a prison discriminated against a transgender employee by denying him access to men’s locker rooms and bathrooms. The jury also determined the executive branch of the state discriminated by refusing to cover benefits for the worker’s gender reassignment surgery. Plaintiff was awarded $120,000 in damages for emotional distress.

The former nurse was the first to file a lawsuit following a state civil rights law that passed in 2007 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Attorneys California Transgender Worker Rights

California also has specific legal protections for workers who are transgender. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing defines transgender as a person whose gender identity differs from the sexual organs with which they were born. Gender expression, meanwhile, refers to the way a person’s appearance related to gender is outwardly displayed, regardless of whether it aligns with stereotypical genders. The FEHA explicitly protects individuals from transgender per the 20013 Gender Nondiscrimination Act.

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, all California employers are required to post a Transgender in the Workplace poster outlining transgender rights, with the FEHA enforcing. These posters:

  • Define terms like gender identity, gender expression and transgender, according to law.
  • Discuss worker rights to use locker rooms, restrooms and other similar facilities.
  • Underscore the right of a worker to dress in accordance with his or her identity expression.

Any Federal Transgender Worker Protections?

This kind of protection is not currently extended at the federal level. Many courts throughout the country have decided transgender workplace discrimination lawsuits in favor of workers by citing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act expressly excludes protection for Gender Identity Disorder and “transexualism.”

Last fall, the Department of Justice filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving a transgender woman fired from a Michigan funeral home after she notified her employer that she would soon begin gender transition surgery. In that case, per NBC News, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the worker/EEOC, citing the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which justices found shields transgender workers and further that religious discrimination can’t be cited as a reason for justifying discrimination.

Now, the funeral home employer has appealed and the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to take the case. If the court agrees, that could result in significant impact to transgender workers in California and across the country. The DOJ’s brief does not request review by Supreme Court justices, but does offer its opinion that Title VII was written to afford the protection of one’s biological sex, not gender identity.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

Jury sides with transgender employee in ‘historic’ Iowa case, Feb. 13, 2019, By Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:

California Employment Litigation Law Firm Facing Gender Bias Lawsuit of Its Own, Jan. 30, 2019, Los Angeles Gender Discrimination Lawyer Blog