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The U.S. Department of Justice Agrees to Help Protect Transgender People

In a memo, dated December 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice publicly acknowledged it will now bring claims against public employers on behalf of workers who have been discriminated against because they are transgender.

At play is the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Previously, the Justice Department interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, as not covering people who do not present as the gender associated with the sex they were born with.  Reversing the department’s earlier position, the Justice Department will now interpret the Civil Rights Act as extending to protect discrimination claims based on gender identity.

The department’s decision follows closely on the heels of the executive order President Barack Obama signed in July 2015 making it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

We are glad to see the government striving for consistent treatment of claimants throughout the government system.  While the Justice Department cannot file suit against private employers, effective January 1, 2012, private employees became protected from discrimination based on “gender identity” and “gender express” under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), which allows for a private right of action.  “Gender” means sex, and includes a person’s gender identity and gender expression. “Gender expression” means a person’s gender-related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.

If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your gender identity, give the attorneys at Zeldes Haeggquist & Eck, LLP a call at 619-342-8000.