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Woman reaches rare gender identity discrimination settlement

A 29-year-old transgender woman obtained a rare victory when she settled a gender identity discrimination case for $50,000. The woman was fired in 2010 when she informed her boss at a market of her intention to begin gender transitioning from male to female. Since federal discrimination statutes do not specifically forbid gender identity discrimination, the woman claimed sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII is the federal statute at the foundation of workplace discrimination laws in all states, including Missouri.

There have been a few victories for transgender employees claiming discrimination since a 2011 EEOC landmark finding that gender identity was protected under Title VII. However, the absence of clear language in Title VII directly addressing the concerns of transgender individuals often provides the ambiguity that employers sometimes use to sidestep claims of workplace discrimination based on gender identity.

Enactment of legislation such as that proposed in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act would correct the gender identity deficiencies in Title VII and provide clear protections for transgender individuals in the workplace. As it now stands, these persons could find their lives destroyed when they lose jobs because of discriminatory practices, making them more likely than the general population to become economically disadvantaged and homeless.

Title VII provides protection to those who are vulnerable to workplace discrimination and harassment. An employment attorney with knowledge of state and federal discrimination laws might be able to assist individuals who believe that they may have been subjected to discrimination at work and are in need of protection.

Source: Huffington Post, "Workplace Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals: It's Time for ENDA", Parker Marie Molloy, September 20, 2013

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