Transgender Applicants Protected from Discrimination Under Title VII

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information, ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), protects against discrimination based on gender identity, change of sex, and transgender status.

The ruling on transgender discrimination came after a transgender woman, Mia Macy, was denied employment with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) prompting her to file a complaint with the EEOC.  In that case, Macy v. Holder, Macy, applied for a job with ATF while she was in the process of transitioning to a woman.  After interviewing for the job, she was assured a position pending the completion of a background check.  While the background check was in progress, Macy relayed to the ATF that she was in the process of changing her gender.  Shortly thereafter, she was told the position was no longer available; only to find out later that the position was indeed still open and another individual had been chosen to fill it.

As required under federal law, she filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging discrimination based on sex, gender identity, and sex stereotyping.  The EEOC accepted her claim of sex discrimination, but did not recognize her claims of gender identity discrimination and sex stereotyping as something prohibited by Title VII.  Macy appealed that decision.  In the interest of resolving the confusion regarding discrimination based on gender identity including differing court interpretations, the EEOC clarified that Title VII protects against discrimination based on gender identity, change of sex and transgender status.  All of Macy’s claims are now being processed by the EEOC under Title VII.