According to a memo released on December 18, 2014 by Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice is now deducing federal law to unequivocally forbid discrimination at work against transgender people.
This implies that the DOJ will now be able to take along claims in aid of workers, who claim to having been discriminated against by local public employers as well as the state employers based on their sexual gender, including transgender status. The Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sex discrimination, will now be no longer taken for reference in defending lawsuits, since it does not protect workplace discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual identity.
The memo is a part of Obama administration’s efforts to provide protection for transgender workers against workplace discrimination. Earlier this year in July, President Obama called for employment protection for gay and transgender employees who work for the U.S. government or for companies that have landed federal contracts.
This as a matter of fact, reverses the DOJ’s earlier position in 2006 that the Title VII did not cover workplace discrimination against one’s gender status, including transgender status.
Eric Holder writes in the memo, saying his position was centered on “the straightforward reading of Title VII is that discrimination ‘because of … sex’ includes discrimination because an employee’s gender identification is as a member of a particular sex, or because the employee is transitioning, or has transitioned, to another sex.”The memo shelters all elements of DOJs as well as U.S. Attorney’s offices. However, the Justice Department has no authority to sue private employers, and that the new memo does not affect that status.
The Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) has been flagging in the Congress for past several years. The ENDA can help institute a federal law prohibiting employment discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The memo is the latest move by Obama administration to drive the measure in an administrative manner.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality welcomed Eric Holder’s memo with open arms, however also noted that it primarily supports a position the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been taking since 2012. Keisling further stated that it also happens to be steady with how the Education Department has applied Title IX of the federal law which prohibits sex discrimination in education, where transgender students bring in discrimination complaints.
The new rules strictly apply to federal employees and contractors. So what does the memo leave here for private employees against gender-based discrimination in workplace setting? Very little, at least for the time being.