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EEOC ruling clarifies transgender employee protections

We often write about employment discrimination cases which are somewhat disheartening. Unfortunately, even though the law largely protects workers against harassment and discrimination, loopholes exist that employers will always try to exploit.

However, today we are discussing a significant step which was recently taken in a positive direction for GLBT rights in the workplace. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that a transgender worker may move forward with her work-related discrimination grievance against the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The woman, who was born male, filed her original complaint after she had been hired for employment as a male, but had her position eliminated after she transitioned to becoming a woman.

The ruling is being heralded as a significant clarification in anti-discrimination law. Specifically, the ruling is being viewed by many as confirmation that transgendered individuals are protected under certain federal employment discrimination laws and that they may file grievances with the EEOC accordingly.

EEOC spokesperson Christine Nazer recently told the Los Angeles Times that the ruling does clarify the EEOC's position and similar rulings will be applied "in all our enforcement activities" related to Title VII claims. Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act protects workers from employment discrimination based on categories including sex, race, national origin and religion.

The subject of GLBT workers' rights has evolved significantly in recent years. As previous EEOC decisions have been inconsistent regarding the rights of transgendered workers under federal law, this clarification in favor of workers' rights is most welcome.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Ruling allows transgender woman to sue for job discrimination," Apr. 24, 2012

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