Trump Administration Re-Interprets Title VII to Exclude Transgender Americans

By Adam Polaski • October 5, 2017 • 2:46 pm

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking steps to deprive transgender Americans of explicit legal recourse should they face discrimination in the workplace. DOJ circulated a memo yesterday alerting federal agencies that it would no longer interpret Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sex in the workplace, to apply to transgender Americans. BuzzFeed broke the news this morning.

Kasey Suffredini, Freedom for All Americans’ Acting CEO & President of Strategy.

“Once again, officials in the Trump Administration are going out of their way to revoke protections for LGBTQ Americans. DOJ’s action directly contradicts a growing amount of case law – and the official position of the EEOC – which recognize that discrimination based on sex absolutely extends to transgender people. This reversal will directly impact transgender employees, particularly those in states without state-level protections, and make it even harder for them protect themselves when they face workplace harassment or discrimination. It’s just the latest evidence that the Trump Administration – and particularly Attorney General Sessions – are committed to rolling back as many existing protections as possible for LGBTQ people.”

The EEOC has recognized gender identity as covered under Title VII for five years, and in 2014 DOJ – under then-Attorney General Eric Holder – officially clarified that federal agencies should interpret the law similarly. Today’s announcement also contradicts multiple federal appellate courts which have already ruled that Title VII covers gender identity.

The DOJ memo serves as an indicator as to how the federal government will likely approach future legal cases involving workplace discrimination. Last month, DOJ filed a brief in support of the business owner in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. DOJ’s brief in that case stood in contrast to existing Colorado state law and prior rulings from the state administrative court, the Colorado Court of Appeals, and the Colorado Supreme Court – all of which found that the baker violated state law when he refused to serve a gay couple looking to make a purchase from his bakery.

Suffredini continued:

“The Trump Administration is systematically working to undermine legal protections for LGBTQ Americans – but we’re not powerless in this moment. Our work at the state level is more important now than ever before. If the federal government won’t protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, state lawmakers must take action on behalf of their citizens. Defending existing state protections and pushing forward for comprehensive protections in places where they do not yet exist are fights that will have real and tangible consequences for LGBTQ Americans across the nation.”

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