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Sterling Employment Law

Transgender discrimination in the workplace

People in Michigan and elsewhere are probably not surprised to hear that although gender discrimination is prohibited under federal law, transgender individuals still face discrimination in the workplace. A 2011 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling established that gender identity is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Since that decision, a handful of transgender discrimination plaintiffs have won victories in lawsuits against former employers. In a recent South Dakota case, a 29-year-old transgender woman settled her workplace discrimination suit against her former employer for $50,000. She had been fired in 2011 after informing her employer of her decision to transition from male to female. Subsequently, she filed the lawsuit based upon the Title VII protection.

Despite the existence of Title VII, almost 90 percent of transgender individuals have reported undergoing some sort of harassment in the workplace. It can be difficult for transgender individuals to establish a case against their employers, as is evidenced by the infrequency of the cases filed. Even when such cases do get filed, pursuing them can be time-consuming and expensive.

Some advocates believe that without the passage of a bill that clearly and specifically defines discrimination against transgender individuals as illegal, substantial hurdles will remain. As a result, transgender individuals tend to experience significantly high rates of unemployment, homelessness and poverty.

A Michigan attorney with experience in employment law might be able to assist transgender individuals who have been subject to workplace discrimination in filing lawsuits against their employers. Such an attorney may be able to help them prove their claims and help negotiate settlements for them.

Source: Huffington Post, "Workplace Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals: It's Time for ENDA", Parker Marie Molloy, September 20, 2013

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