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Law: A New Enforcement Priority: EEOC Targets Gender Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals

Published:  July 14, 2015

Discrimination based on transgender status or gender identity is a developing area of employment law.

Some states, including Massachusetts, have recognized gender identity as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws. Federal courts are increasingly finding that laws prohibiting gender discrimination apply to transgender individuals. In the past year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal administrative agency responsible for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law prohibiting, among other things, sex (gender) discrimination in the workplace, has filed the first three lawsuits ever filed by the EEOC alleging sex discrimination against a transgender individual.

The EEOC has identified sex discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals as an enforcement priority. Citing a 2011 UCLA study, Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC Phoenix District Office, stated that “78% of transgender employees nationwide reported harassment or mistreatment at work because of their gender identity.”

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