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Sex Discrimination Laws Protect Transgender Workers, Federal Court Rules

Two recent cases have bolstered support for the conclusion that Title VII prohibitions against sex discrimination extend to and include sexual orientation discrimination. In the first, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that a funeral home discriminated when it fired a transgender employee after she told her boss that she was going to be presenting as the gender she identified with and would be transitioning. When she was hired, she presented as male. However, she identified as female. When she informed her boss of her decision to present as a female and transition, she was terminated. Her boss cited “religious liberty” as a defense. The 6th Circuit squarely rejected this defense, reasoning that transgender discrimination amounts to gender stereotyping, which the Supreme Court has held violates Title VII. The court explained: “[A]n employer cannot discriminate on the basis of transgender status without imposing its stereotypical notions of how sexual organs and gender identity ought to align.” Further, the court stated that transgender discrimination is inherently sex discrimination, and firing an employer based on his or her status as a transgender individual is directly connected to an employee’s sex.

Similarly, the 2d Circuit determined in Zarda v,.Altitude Express that Title VII protects LGBTQ employees from both gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination.

While the Supreme Court has not issued express guidance, courts across the country have supported this conclusion. Although the 11th Circuit has recently issued a decision contrary to these opinions, a growing body of law supports the conclusion that workplace discrimination against the LGBTQ community is prohibited.

For more information or if you have suffered any form of employment discrimination, please contact the dedicated Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal, LLP for an immediate consultation.

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