The US Labor Department has announced that it will issue guidelines clarifying that laws against sex-based discrimination also provide protection to transgender people.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided in 2012 that the protections provided in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act are inclusive of transgender rights, but the Labor Department did not say if it would apply that decision to its own rules regarding employment discrimination and federal contractors. It actively avoided answering questions about its transgender protection policies until February 2014, when according to Buzzfeed, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said that the department had not enacted any policies protecting transgender workers from being discriminated against. He stated that the issue was “under review.”
Finally, on a post dated June 30, 2014, Perez announced on the official blog of the US Department of Labor, “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.”
He explained, “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.
“Our workforce and our entire economy are strongest when we embrace diversity to its fullest, and that means opening doors of opportunity to everyone and recognizing that the American Dream excludes no one.”
The announcement was published the same day that President Barack Obama told attendees at the White House Pride Month Celebration that in addition to asking his staff to draft an executive order that would prohibit discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of sexual orientation, he had asked for an additional order to be drafted, explicitly protecting federal employees from discrimination based on gender identity.