Nov 6, 2014

By Eric B. Meyer

Even without a federal law that specifically bans discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identify, it’s no secret that one of the EEOC’s top priorities is to protect LGBT workers from discrimination.

And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is being quite transparent about it, with a new guide for employers and employees.

The EEOC recently published What You Should Know about EEOC and the Enforcement Protections for LGBT Workers.

A violation of Title VII

In that guide, the EEOC cites three of its rulings, which underscore its unwavering position that discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the anti-discrimination laws that the EEOC is charged with enforcing.

While the cases upon which the EEOC relies involve public-sector employers, they lay the groundwork for enforcement efforts against private employers:

Consistent with these Commission rulings (and case law from the Supreme Court and other courts), the Commission has instructed our investigators and attorneys that discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender is a violation of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination in employment.

Therefore, the EEOC’s district, field, and area offices have been instructed to take and investigate (where appropriate) charges from individuals who believe they have been discriminated against because of transgender status (or because of gender identity or a gender transition).

In addition, investigators and attorneys were instructed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals also may bring valid Title VII sex discrimination claims, and that the EEOC should accept charges alleging sexual-orientation-related discrimination. These allegations might include, for example, claims of sexual harassment or other kinds of sex discrimination,such as adverse actions taken because of the person’s failure to conform to sex-stereotypes (such as those listed above).”

Over 700 cases in 2014

As previously discussed here, presently, the EEOC has two such cases pending against private sector employers.

Those two cases reflect a mere fraction of the 784 charges that the EEOC has received in the first three quarters of 2014, alleging discrimination based on either sexual orientation or gender identity. These cases, thus far, have led to monetary benefits totaling $884,659.

For more information from the EEOC on Preventing Employment Discrimination of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender Employees, check out this publication from the EEOC.

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

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