Human Resources Update: DOJ to Allow Claims Based on Gender Identity Discrimination
Provided by CIBC of Illinois, Inc.
On Dec. 18, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a reversal of its position regarding whether discrimination based on sex incudes discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity and transgender status.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin when making employment decisions. In 2006, the DOJ took the position that discrimination based on sex excluded discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity or transgender status. On Dec. 18, 2014, the DOJ reversed this position.
Gender identity is an individual’s internal sense of being male or female. An individual’s internal identification may or may not correspond to the individual’s biological gender. Transgender individuals are people with a gender identity that is different from the sex assigned to them at birth.
Effect on Employers
The DOJ’s authority to file discrimination lawsuits is limited to government employers. However, this announcement is significant because it further solidifies the federal government’s position on gender identity rights. For example, in 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) decided to allow individuals to file workplace sex discrimination charges based on gender identity and transgender status, and on July 21, 2014, the Obama administration issued an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
While the full effect of this announcement is yet to be seen, employers can expect to see more individuals file claims based on gender identity discrimination and increased federal support for employee protections against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Moreover, a more unified federal government position on this issue may influence courts and state governments to adopt similar positions when claims are filed against employers in the private sector.
CIBC of Illinois, Inc. will continue to monitor this issue and will alert you of new developments. Meanwhile, employers should review their employment policies to ensure that they are compliant with federal, state and local anti-discrimination regulations.
This Compliance Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.