Employment Discrimination Against Transgender People

by Chris Kuhlman on February 10, 2016

Far too many transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) people – those who identify as a different gender than that assigned to them at birth – face discrimination, harassment, and other indignities in the workplace every day.  Fortunately, the law is beginning to recognize the unfairly high rates of employment discrimination against transgender people, especially that against transgender people of color.

Transgender persons are being discriminated against at the workplace at very high rates

A recent report issued by the National Center for Transgender Equality highlighted the alarming rates of discrimination that transgender individuals face in the workplace, including:

  • Being fired for their gender identity or expression. 47% of transgender people said they had experienced employment discrimination due to transphobia, and 26% lost their jobs as a direct result of such bias. People with lower educational levels were particularly likely to be fired for their gender, as were black, Native, and mixed-race people.
  • Not being hired. 44% of respondents in the survey had been turned down for a job at least once because of their status as transgender or GNC.   Again, this sort of discrimination is particularly rampant against transgender people of color and low-income people.
  • Being passed up for promotion. 23% of transgender people in this study were passed up for promotion at work due to bias. Another 30% of respondents felt that if they sought promotions or raises, they would be at risk of discrimination.
  • Harassment and mistreatment from all sides, including: coworkers, managers, and customers. Nine out of ten transgender people have experienced this sort of harassment, or have needed to stay in the closet at work to avoid it. An astronomically high 78% of survey respondents reported direct employment mistreatment like this, such as:
    • Repeated, deliberate misgendering (using the wrong name/pronouns) (45%)
    • Invasive, personal questions (41%) and violations of confidentiality (48%)
    • Physical (7%) or sexual (6%) assault at work
    • General harassment (50%)
    • Being forced to present as the wrong gender (32%)
    • Choosing to hide their gender or transition (71%)
    • Not allowed/provided access to suitable bathrooms (21-22%)
  • High rates of unemployment and underemployment. One in four transgender people is underemployed, compared to less than one in ten people in the general population. The unemployment rate for trans people is twice that of the national average.
  • Discrimination against their partners and children by association with the transgender person.

Minnesota’s laws protect transgender persons from workplace discrimination and harassment

Minnesota was one of the first states to prohibit discrimination on the basis of one’s gender identity, all the way back in the Minnesota Human Rights Act “MHRA” of 1993.  The MHRA doesn’t just protect transgender Minnesotans from discrimination in employment – it also covers transgender individuals’ rights to housing, education (including non-religious private schools), and credit.  Further, some cities, including both Minneapolis and St. Paul, provide additional protection to transgender and GNC people.

Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that transgender employees and job-seekers are protected from discrimination, because discrimination based on gender identity (as well as sexual orientation) is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It is important to note that this is not a change in the language of Title VII itself; rather, it is a change in the way the EEOC interprets the law, and it is possible that a future EEOC administration could change its interpretation. However, the EEOC currently takes a robust position against discrimination of this kind.

Minnesota Lawyers Protecting Transgender Individuals’ Rights

If you identify as transgender in Minnesota and have faced workplace discrimination due to your gender identity or presentation, or have been “migendered” by your employer contact Minneapolis employment lawyer Christopher Kuhlman at Kuhlman Law, at (612) 349-2747 for a free consultation.  Our firm focuses on representing employees and handles Minnesota transgender discrimination and Minnesota transgender harassment cases.

You deserve a workplace where you can be who you are – no jokes, no danger, no wrong pronouns, just an honest day’s work.  Call us today for a free consultation and case evaluation at (612) 349-2747.   

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