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Transgender Day of Remembrance Calls Attention to Violence and Discrimination

November 20th, 2020

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed annually on November 20. This day was first celebrated in 1999 as a vigil to honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. Its purpose is to commemorate all the transgender people who have lost their lives to violence and call attention to their struggles in everyday life.

A knowledgeable lawyer knows that transgender discrimination in the workplace is a reality for many workers. A transgender individual may be subject to a hostile company culture or even be denied employment or promotions. Some transgender employees have even been denied access to restrooms that support their gender identity.

On the other hand, many employers may not comprehend or support laws meant to protect transgender people. Some employers may not even be aware that transgender employees are in a protected class of workers. Both employees and employers should understand how laws govern the treatment and rights of transgender people in the workplace.

What Laws Protect Transgender Workers?

There are multiple laws in place that protect transgender employees. Some notable laws include:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: While no federal law specifically addresses transgender or gender non-conforming employees, federal courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have agreed that transgender discrimination in the workplace is considered sex and gender discrimination. Therefore, transgender and gender non-conforming employees are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and they can file complaints with the EEOC. People who identify as lesbian, bi-sexual, gay, and queer are also protected. Title VII applies to all companies with 15 or more employees.

State and Local Laws: In many jurisdictions throughout the United States, discrimination based on gender identity or expression is explicitly prohibited.

State Constitutions: In many states, state or local government employees are protected by state constitutions and laws prohibiting sex and gender discrimination. Additionally, executive orders in many states, including Pennsylvania, prohibit gender identity discrimination in state employment.

Federal Guidelines: Federal civilian employees and federal contractors are protected from transgender discrimination under special guidelines and executive orders issued by the federal government.

What are Transgender Rights in the Workplace?

It is illegal to discriminate based on sex and gender, including:

  • Gender identity
  • Gender transition
  • Sex assigned at birth
  • Transgender status

Transgender workers are protected against various forms of discrimination, whether it is intentional or unintentional. Some important rights of transgender employees include:

  • The right to a harassment-free workplace. Harassment can include jokes, comments, intentional use of the wrong name or pronouns, and disrespectful questions. Harassment can be illegal if it is pervasive and widespread in the workplace, creating a hostile environment, and when an employer does not actively try to stop it.
  • The right to not be demoted, fired, or refused a job or promotion because of transgender status. Employees are protected regardless of state or local laws.
  • The right to safe and adequate access to restrooms and other facilities consistent with gender identity. Federal courts and the EEOC make it clear that it is discriminatory to make transgender people use restrooms separate from the rest of the workforce or facilities that are unsafe, unsanitary, or far from the usual work location. Employers also cannot ask for documentation of gender as a condition of restroom access.
  • The right to disclose transgender or gender identity. Employers cannot forbid employees from disclosing their sexual expression or identity. Conversely, an employer cannot disclose an employee’s transgender status without permission from the employee.

What can a Transgender Person Do About Workplace Discrimination?

Anyone who feels they have been discriminated against in the workplace because of their gender identity or gender expression have several options available to them:

Discuss it with Management

Sometimes, managers or co-workers do not understand the laws, or they bring personal biases into the workplace. Others may think they are being humorous, and in some cases, employers are being purposely demeaning. Regardless of the situation, workplace discrimination is never acceptable.

A transgender employee should discuss their feelings and present evidence to company management or the Human Resources (HR) department. They should also share the federal and state and local laws that protect transgender people, as well as company policies. Employees should for workplace culture changes, real action, and support. If the workplace culture is pervasively discriminatory, there may be grounds for a lawsuit. An employee is not required to follow company procedures first before filing a lawsuit or complaint. An employee also has the right to hire a lawyer to help them approach their company HR department or management.

File a Complaint

An employee must file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or a civil or human rights agency before going to court. This charge needs to be filed within a certain timeframe, which is usually 180 days from the date of the discriminatory behavior.

The EEOC will try to resolve the case to the satisfaction of all parties. If this is not possible, they will issue a Right to Sue letter, which gives the employee the right to formally charge the employer with discrimination in federal court. An employee can ask for a Right to Sue letter immediately upon filing a charge with the EEOC, but they should do so only if they have a lawyer working on their behalf.

File a Lawsuit

An employee must file an EEOC charge and get a Right to Sue letter before they can file a federal lawsuit. That is why it is a good idea to hire a lawyer upfront. The lawsuit must be filed within 90 days of receiving the Right to Sue letter. Employees who wish to base their lawsuit on state or local laws do not need to go through the EEOC process first, but they may need to go through a civil or human rights agency.

Discrimination lawsuits are complex. Hiring a lawyer as early as possible can help inform the victim about the process and strict deadlines.

Working as a Transgender Person in Pennsylvania

The EEOC, which has jurisdiction over federal employment discrimination laws, has taken the position that transgender people are a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This means that negative employment actions, including firing, demoting, or creating a hostile work environment, are illegal if they occur because the employee identifies as transgender or is perceived as transgender.

In addition, in 2018, the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission added sexual orientation and gender identity to its definition of protected classes in the workplace. This makes Pennsylvania among a growing number of states in which a transgender worker is protected both under state and federal laws while working in the state. More than 40 local governments in Pennsylvania have enacted ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, as well as in housing and public accommodations. If a transgender worker is being harassed or discriminated, they have legal recourse.

Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Protect Transgender Workers Against Workplace Discrimination

Transgender employees have rights in the workplace. If you feel you are being discriminated against at work, we can help. Our Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. fight for the rights of discriminated employees. Contact us online or call us at 215-569-1999 for a free consultation today. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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