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First of two EEOC transgender lawsuits reaches settlement

Back in December 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission adopted a Strategic Enforcement Plan that, among other things, identified combating discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals as a top priority.

Specifically, the EEOC indicated that it would be targeting those employers whose conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that bars all forms of sex discrimination, including gender non-conformance. 

In keeping with ongoing efforts to implement this SEP, the EEOC has filed first-of-its-kind lawsuits against two employers, one of which is located here in Florida, for discriminating against a transgendered person.  

The Lakeland-based eye clinic is accused of terminating a director upon learning that she considered herself transgendered, was presenting a woman and had begun the transition process.

This termination, argues the EEOC, was purely discriminatory given that the director had been a model employee throughout her tenure.

In recent developments, the EEOC announced that a settlement had been reached with the eye clinic. Under its terms, approved by a federal judge last week, the eye clinic will pay $150,000, introduce new policies concerning gender discrimination and provide all employees with the necessary training on transgender discrimination.

"As employers take a leadership role in enforcing the law prohibiting discrimination based on one's gender identity, the American workplace will move closer to embracing an inclusive work environment where employees are judged on their merit and not on any preconceived gender stereotype," said EEOC general counsel.

The other lawsuit filed by the EEOC for discriminating against a transgendered person targets a Detroit-based funeral home that it claims terminated a funeral director because of her transgendered status. The case has yet to go to trial, but oral arguments are scheduled for this week on the funeral home's motion to dismiss.  

It's highly encouraging to see the EEOC actively combating discrimination in all forms. If you believe that you've been victimized by any sort of workplace discrimination, please don't be intimidated and please don't hesitate to consider contacting an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to discuss your options.

Sources: The Windy City Times, "Florida eye clinic to pay $150,000 in trans/sex discrimination case," April 13, 2015; Business Insurance, "Transgender lawsuit against eye clinic settles," Judy Greenwald, April 13, 2015

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