EEOC Recognizes Transgender Discrimination

On April 20, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held that discrimination against a federal employee based on transgendered status violates federal anti-discrimination law. Macy v. Holder (EEOC, No. 0120120821, 2012).  

Transgendered police detective, Mia Macy, worked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). Macy began her career as male and presented herself as a male. Her suit alleged that she lost a promotional opportunity that she was qualified for and had been told she would receive just five days after informing the ATF that she was transitioning from male to female. Macy filed a complaint with the EEOC, which adjudicates discrimination claims brought by federal employees.

The EEOC interpreted the word “sex” under Title VII to include both biological sex and gender stereotypes. The EEOC referenced court decisions interpreting “gender” to encompass not just biological sex, but also the “cultural and social aspects of masculinity and femininity.” The EEOC said that since the behavior of transgendered persons is perceived as going against gender stereotypes, transgendered discrimination is actionable in the same way as claims of discrimination based on gender stereotypes.

It remains to be seen whether this decision opens up Title VII protections to a new class of persons going forward.