With the recent hype surrounding the Kardashians, specifically, formerly Bruce Jenner and now Caitlyn Jenner, transgender issues are rising to the forefront of the news. However, transgender matters have been around as long as other discrimination issues.
Unfortunately, discrimination based upon an individual being transgender is not expressly addressed in Title VII or the Florida Civil Rights Act (FCRA). However, historically, employees have used the term “discrimination on the basis of gender” as a way of defending themselves from transgender discrimination. Courts have referred to this form of discrimination as “gender identity discrimination.”
Some examples of discrimination against transgender individuals include, but are not limited to, a transgender man who grows his hair and wears make-up and is terminated because he does not “look” like what his employer believes he should; or, a transgender woman who cuts her hair short and wears a suit with a tie and is terminated because she does not dress how her employer believes she “should” dress. In either instance, both transgender individuals are being unlawfully discriminated against due to their gender identity. Therefore, simply because the term “transgender” is not expressly stated in the anti-discrimination laws, both individuals under these examples have compelling arguments for discrimination on the basis of their gender, specifically, for not adhering to the stereotypes associated with the gender by which they were born.
An important distinction and common misconception about transgender individuals is that transgender individuals are, or the term transgender also includes, homosexual. This is inaccurate. Although some transgender individuals may also be homosexual, that is not always the case. This is significant because Title VII and the FCRA have not yet outright recognized homosexuality as a basis for discrimination. Therefore, if an employer improperly includes transgender and homosexuality in the same category, and believes transgender is also not covered under Title VII or the FCRA, they will be exposing themselves to liability.
In 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 202 Charges of discrimination based on sex discrimination, specifically transgender. In only the first three months of 2015, however, the EEOC received 112 Charges of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Clearly, discrimination against transgender individuals exists and continues to grow. Therefore, it is the duty of both employers and the employees to be aware of all relevant laws. Employers must keep apprised of the applicability of laws in order to protect themselves from liability, and employees must do the same to protect themselves from discrimination and assert their rights.
If you are an employer and have questions or current issues regarding the applicability of discrimination laws, or an employee that feels you have been discriminated against based on your gender identity, contact Wilson McCoy, P.A. Our attorneys are experienced representing both employers and employees in discrimination suits, and are available to help answer any questions you may have regarding the applicability of discrimination laws.