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Federal protections for transgender employees

The rights of transgender employees have expanded during recent years. President Obama issued an executive order in July prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees based upon gender identity and sexual orientation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also recently brought lawsuits under Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts to protect transgender employees. Finally, Attorney General Eric Holder announced in December that the Justice Department would look upon transgender discrimination as prohibited sexual discrimination at the workplace.

A transgender employee filed a federal lawsuit recently against her employer, Forever 21 located in Brooklyn. It’s claimed the fashion retailer was guilty of harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

The employee began working there as a sales associate in May 2011 and was soon after promoted to visual merchandiser. When transitioning into to become a woman in January 2014, she claims the discrimination and harassment began. Apparently male supervisors began subjecting her to insults and directed her to dress like a man.

The lawsuit states that the retailer discriminated against the employee “on the basis of her gender, gender expression, gender identity and/or failure to conform to gender stereotypes in violation of the” New York State Human Rights law by failing to employ her under the same terms and conditions as other employees. This matter follows settlement of another lawsuit filed against Saks Company where retaliation and harassment against a transgender employee was alleged.

Employment attorneys can answer questions when it comes to legal options employees have when discrimination occurs. Title VII forbids discrimination of many kinds. While the EEOC and courts appear to be interpreting federal law more broadly, many employers have failed to implement practices preventing this discrimination from occurring.

Source: Fortune, “Forever 21 slapped with transgender discrimination lawsuit,” Claire Zillman, April 2, 2015

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