As evidenced by a recent $50,000 settlement of a transgender discrimination case, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will not hesitate to pursue employers that discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This settlement, the first of its kind on behalf of a transgender individual, follows a landmark EEOC determination in 2012 that any discrimination based on gender identity, change of sex, sex stereotyping or transgender status is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII. Macy v. Holder, EEOC Appeal No. 0120120821 (April 20, 2012).
The EEOC plans to focus on new and emerging protected classes and the application of sex discrimination provisions to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Although gender identity and sexual orientation are not yet protected classes under Title VII and other federal laws, many states and municipalities prohibit such discrimination. Consequently, employers should take steps to eradicate sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination from the workplace.
In this case, according to the Lambda Legal Defense Fund, Cori McCreery, born biologically male, was employed by a Don's Valley Market grocery store on and off over a period of five years. When McCreery was rehired in August 2010, she was promoted to a supervisory position. Shortly after, she notified her employer that she would be transitioning from male to female. Although initially reassured regarding her job security, she was soon terminated because she was making other employees feel uncomfortable. Following this, Lambda Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint on McCreery's behalf with the EEOC alleging transgender discrimination in violation of Title VII.
In addition to the monetary settlement of $50,000, Don's Valley Market is also required to:
Provide professional antidiscrimination training for all of its employees each year;
Implement and distribute an antidiscrimination policy to all employees;
Report all future discrimination complaints to the EEOC;
Provide public notice of the settlement on the company's bulletin board;
Place notice of the settlement on the EEOC website; and
Provide McCreery with a formal letter of apology and a neutral letter of reference.
Commenting on the milestone settlement, Acting Director of the EEOC's Minneapolis Area Office Julie Schmidt states that, "Employers need to be made aware that their personal myths, fears and stereotypes about gender identity can subject them to liability if they act upon them in an employment setting." Further, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum stressed that, "Individuals need to be treated on their merits."