As of right now, there is no federal law on the books that protects transgender employees against unfair practices in the workplace. While laws exist protecting almost every other civil liberty, choosing the gender you wish does not guarantee equality at work.
The United States Supreme Court has recently decided it will hear three cases regarding discrimination in the workplace and transgender people. Taking a look at the implications may help understand why this hot-button topic needs addressing sooner rather than later.
No protection under current anti-discrimination laws
Two Michigan cases that will go before the Supreme Court in the fall both upheld employee anti-discrimination rights under one prong of the federal law. In those cases, the representatives for the employees argued that their clients’ protection against unfair workplace practices fell under the portion of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that protects people from harassment and discrimination “based on sex.” While this was not implemented with transgender individuals in mind, the lower courts in Michigan ruled that it could still apply.
The Federal Court of Appeals in Georgia dismissed the third case on the basis of a 40-year-old law that bans homosexuality. All three cases will set a legal precedent with far-reaching consequences.
Fortunately, if you live in California, state law helps protect transgender people from workplace discrimination. It is one of only 20 states that have enacted such laws. The cases will determine whether federal law will follow suit and provide similar or stronger protections to all people. Even with the state laws, instances of anti-transgender discrimination occur in the workplace when it comes to hiring, firing and pay practices. Not all employers have come around to compliance with state law.
If you feel that you or someone at work is the victim of discrimination, you should report it immediately. Doing so will help further the cause of equality.