Labor Department will protect transgender workers from discrimination

Photo: Thomas Perez. Credit: Department of Labor.

Photo: Thomas Perez. Credit: Department of Labor.

The Obama administration will issue guidance “to make clear that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination based on sex,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez announced Monday.

The announcement comes more than two years after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in Macy v. Holder that “sex discrimination,” which is prohibited under federal law, includes discrimination against transgender people. Since that ruling in April 2012, the Labor Department has not indicated whether it was applying the decision to protect transgender employees of federal contractors. Under Executive Order 11246, federal contractors are prohibited from discrimination on the basis of of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

During a surprise visit to the White House press briefing in February, Perez said that the application of the EEOC ruling was still under review.

“That issue is under review in the aftermath of the Macy decision. And I’ve asked my staff to expedite that review so that we can bring that issue to conclusion at the Department of Labor,” Perez said, adding that he hopes the review “will come to an end as soon as possible.”

However, in a Monday blog post titled “Justice and Identity,” Perez said final guidance would at last be issued.

“As we celebrate Pride Month and approach the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the Labor Department is reaffirming its commitment to equal opportunity for all. That’s why we are updating enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance to clarify that we provide the full protection of the federal non-discrimination laws that we enforce to transgender individuals,” Perez wrote.

These changes reflect current law. In Macy v. Holder, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that discrimination because a person is transgender is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Civil Rights Center, along with the Employment and Training Administration, will issue guidance to make clear that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination based on sex. While the department has long protected employees from sex-based discrimination, its guidance to workers and employers will explicitly clarify that this includes workers who identify as transgender. The department will continue to examine its programs to identify additional opportunities to extend the law’s full protection against discrimination to transgender workers.

The announcement comes as President Obama prepares to sign two executive orders intended to protect LGBT workers from workplace discrimination. The first will prohibit federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and the second, announced yesterday at the White House LGBT Pride Month reception, will protect transgender federal employees from discrimination.

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's political editor and White House correspondent. He can be reached at jsnow@metroweekly.com.

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