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Home > Blog > Labor and Employment > Do Federal Protections for Transgender Employees Exist?

Do Federal Protections for Transgender Employees Exist?

Even after the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was struck down in 2013 and the nationwide legalization of gay marriage in June 2015, LGBT individuals still do not have equal rights on the federal level. This is largely due to the lack of federal protections against employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on sexual orientation or gender identity. On November 10th, however, the Obama administration announced its support and endorsement for the Equality Act, a piece of proposed legislation that aims to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to directly protect LGBT and transgender individuals. Similar legislation has been proposed several times over the past 20 years, however, it has never been voted into law on the federal level.

Does the Civil Rights Act Already Protect Transgender Employees?

Though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not expressly protect anti-discrimination rights of transgender individuals, it does protect employees from discrimination based on “sex.” In 1989, the case of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins made it to the Supreme Court regarding sex discrimination. In this case, Ann Hopkins had been denied promotion to partner because the firm stated she was not “feminine enough” in her walk, talk, and other actions. The Court ruled that discriminating against someone because they did not fit a sex-stereotype constituted unlawful sex discrimination under federal law.

Since that case, the EEOC has ruled in many cases that discrimination against transgender employees is unlawful because it stems from the employees not fitting the stereotype for their sex. Attorney General Eric Holder also stated that the federal Justice Department also takes the stance that transgender discrimination constitutes prohibited sex discrimination. While these opinions are not necessarily binding on the courts or even on private employers (federal transgender employees are protected), this interpretation is growing, despite not yet being addressed by the Supreme Court, to become mandated at the federal level.

Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws that provide protections for employees based on gender identity or expression. These states are as follows:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington

In addition, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced in October that the state would consider the protections based on “sex” to include gender identity and expression. Though the language of the law is not changing, the way the law is regulated will be changed once this goes into effect.

Contact a Florida Employment Discrimination Lawyer For help

Unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are unacceptable in workplaces in Florida and across the United States. If your employer has treated you wrongfully in any way, you should always discuss your legal rights with an experienced attorney, as you may have a valid legal claim. Florida employment lawyer Robert S. Norell, P.A. has helped many different clients in Broward County and Miami-Dade County obtain financial recovery for mistreatment on the job, so please call for a consultation at 305-405-9243 as soon as possible.

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