Issues that affect workers involving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender communities have been making the news with less resistance in recent years. Express statutory protections for LGBT workers have not made it through the Florida legislature, or at the national level, although lawmakers have introduced bills on several occasions as we have discussed. Spotty local laws, and even at the state level in some areas of the country have been enacted concerning the subject.
But, courts and the Florida Commission on Human Relations have also shown an increasing openness in reading state and federal civil rights laws as providing legal protection for LGBT workers against discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
For instance, in 2011, the Federal Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit (which includes federal courts in Florida) ruled in favor of a worker who was born male who began taking steps to transition from being male to female. She says that she was fired after revealing to her boss of her transition. The case reportedly referred to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but the issues did not directly address definitions under the civil rights law.
Last April, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued an opinion finding that employment discrimination based upon gender identity falls within the scope of federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in the workplace. Last Autumn, the agency reportedly found reasonable cause to believe that a Maryland government contractor had engaged in harassment in violation of a transgender worker’s civil rights.
Workplace harassment based upon gender is a form of employment discrimination. The transgnder worker says that she endured two years’ of harassment from co-workers and supervisors at the company.
The woman ultimately sued the employer in federal court after receiving the letter from the EEOC.
She has now settled that lawsuit, according to Metro Weekly. Commentators say that the case may be the first one in which the federal agency has conducted an investigation into transgender harassment allegation that resulted in a ruling in favor of the worker.
Source: Metro Weekly, “Breakthrough EEOC Settlement in Maryland," John Riley, July 17, 2013