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Transgender discrimination in the workplace

As many California employees know, federal law protects certain forms of discrimination in the workplace. When employers make it difficult for an employee to function in his or her job, complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may help address this type of behavior.

Recent action by the Obama administration has expanded the coverage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to sexual orientation discrimination. In 2014, an executive order prevented contractors who perform work for the federal government from discriminating against workers due to gender identity or sexual orientation. In the same year, the EEOC lodged a lawsuit claiming discrimination related to a transgender individual. This was the first such lawsuit filed by the EEOC. This year, a lawsuit citing transgender discrimination was filed by the Justice Department against an employer.

One case illustrates this progression. A decision handed down by the EEOC in 2015 involved what the commission called dissimilar treatment of a transgender individual by the Department of the Army. In this situation, the employee was forced to use a bathroom separate from other employees. The EEOC said that despite what other employees might feel when using the bathroom with this individual, this action precipitated discriminatory behavior and her workplace situation was damaged. This decision may put a greater onus on employers to provide protection for transgender individuals.

An employee who experiences sexual discrimination in the workplace may benefit from speaking with an attorney. In most cases, a claim must be lodged with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the appropriate state agency as the required first step. After a review of the claim has been made, the employee may then be allowed to pursue a private lawsuit under some circumstances.

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