EEOC sues employers in two states for anti-trans discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed lawsuits against employers in two states for allegedly discriminating against their transgender employees. A funeral home in Garden City, Michigan, fired embalmer Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman, in 2013 after she told her employer that she would be transitioning on the job. In Lakeland, Florida, an eye clinic fired Brandi Branson, a transgender woman and the clinic's director of hearing services, after she mentioned her transition.

The EEOC says this is the first time is has filed lawsuits alleging sex discrimination against people who are transgender. In the 2012, the EEOC made a groundbreaking ruling in the case of Macy v. Holder, in which a transgender woman was notified that the position she was initially hired for had been cut, only after she informed her future employer of her transition. The federal agency ruled in favor of the transgender plaintiff, Mia Macy, saying that discrimination based on gender identity is sex-based discrimination, and violates Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964.

"The EEOC has sent a clear message about fairness and equality in the workplace," said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "But when a person can be fired from their job simply because of who they are, something is seriously broken. Until LGBT employees can proudly bring their whole selves to work, there's a great deal of culture change left to be done in this country."

In August, the U.S. Department of Labor clarified that existing anti-discrimination protections for federal employees and employees of federal contractors based on sex also include gender identity. However, a national Employment Non-Discrimination Act has yet to be passed.