Politics

Labor Department Issues Guidance Protecting Transgender Employees Of Federal Contractors

Guidance comes after more than two years.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks next to U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez on July 31. Larry Downing / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Department of Labor issued long-awaited guidance to protect transgender employees of federal contractors from discrimination Tuesday, nearly 28 months after a landmark employment decision asserting that transgender workers are covered by the Civil Rights Act.

The move was announced in a blog post from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Patricia Shiu, who wrote, “Today, we issued guidance clarifying that sex discrimination extends to gender identity and transgender status.”

The guidance follows a decision issued April 20, 2012, by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a complaint brought by Mia Macy, a transgender woman who claimed discrimination by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in applying for a job with one of the agency’s labs. The EEOC ruled that Macy could bring a discrimination claim under the sex discrimination ban in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act because anti-transgender discrimination is a type of sex discrimination.

OFCCP, an office within the Labor Department, enforces Executive Order 11246, which bans federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Although it was expected, under the office’s policies, that it would adopt the EEOC’s interpretation of “sex discrimination” to the executive order, an answer was not forthcoming for more than a year.

When Labor Secretary Tom Perez finally addressed the issue in February, he said that the issue was under review. It wasn’t until President Obama announced that he would be signing an executive order explicitly banning gender identity, along with sexual orientation, discrimination by federal contractors that Perez announced the Labor Department would be applying the reasoning of the Macy decision to the existing executive order.

On Tuesday, the guidance was issued “[t]o clarify that existing agency guidance on discrimination on the basis of sex under Executive Order 11246, as amended, includes discrimination on the bases of gender identity and transgender status.”

update

Laura Durso, director of the Center for American Progress’s LGBT Research and Communications Project, said of Tuesday’s news, “Today’s development would not have been possible without the courageous efforts of Mia Macy, who sought to remedy injustice after she was denied a job because she is transgender. ​The full implementation of the Macy decision, along with President Obama’s recent executive orders, is the next major step in ensuring that LGBT workers have basic employment protections that they both need and deserve.”

The Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, Sarah Warbelow, added, “The Labor Department guidance issued today is a giant step toward ensuring American workers are judged based on the work they do, and never because of a fundamental aspect of who they are — like their gender identity.”

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Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Geidner covers the Supreme Court and also reports extensively on LGBT legal issues around the country. Geidner won the 2014 National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact this reporter at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com
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