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EEOC Recognizes Transgendered Employees as a Protected Class under Title VII

In the landmark case, Macy v. Holder, the E.E.O.C. held that transgendered individuals, such as Macy, are entitled to Title VII protection. This ruling has nationwide implications, providing this historically discriminated group of individuals with significant protection against illegal employment practices. Employers with fifteen or more employees will now have to comply with the E.E.O.C’s ruling or face the threat of litigation.

In Macy v. Holder, Mia Macy applied for a ballistics officer position with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Due to her unique background and experience, she was told after an initial interview that she was “virtually guaranteed” a job with the department contingent on clearing a background check. A few months after receiving this news, Ms. Macy decided to inform her future employer that she would be making a gender transition from male to female. Subsequently, she received an email from the ATF stating that it could no longer offer Ms. Macy the position due to budget cuts. However, Macy discovered that another individual was offered the position and had begun working in that role. Citing, among other cases, the landmark Price Waterhouse case where a female employee was similarly denied a position because she was not “feminine enough,” the EEOC held that the ATF’s behavior was discriminatory and illegal under Title VII.

While the decision is a positive move forward, many unresolved issues still remain. For example, while the Macy decision protects transgendered persons, it still remains legal for employers to terminate employees based on their sexual orientation. Fortunately, some states, including California and Illinois, have enacted statewide legislation which classifies homosexuals and bisexuals as a protected group.