Saks backs down from claim on trans people and Title VII

Leyth Jamal

Leyth Jamal

The National Center for Lesbian Rights reported today (Monday, Jan. 26), that Saks Fifth Avenue has withdrawn a motion to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee on the grounds that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect transgender workers. In addition, an NCLR spokesman noted, the U.S. Department of Justice has filed an historic statement in that same case declaring that Title VII does, indeed, protect trans people.

This is the first time the DOJ has stated without a doubt that Title VII prohibits any time of discrimination against transgender people, not just discrimination based on gender stereotypes.

Saks’ action and the statement from the DOJ are both connected to the lawsuit filed by Leyth Jamal, a trans woman, who claims that she faced extensive discrimination and was eventually fired from Saks in Houston because of her gender identity. NCLR and the Human Rights Campaign became involved in the case after Saks filed its brief saying trans worker are not covered under Title VII.

In a statement announcing that the company was withdrawing the motion to dismiss, Saks officials again denied having discriminated against Jamal:

“We have decided to withdraw our motion to dismiss because important concerns about transgender rights under the current law are overshadowing a clear case of employee misconduct. Our position is, and always has been, that it is unacceptable to discriminate against transgender individuals.  Saks does not, and will not, tolerate discrimination and legal strategy should not obscure that bedrock commitment.  We did not discriminate against this former Associate. And we want to see all individuals protected under the law.”

Saks said Jamal and another former associate were fired for using “inappropriate and offensive language on the selling floor” in front of a customer. The other person fired does not identify as LGBT, the Saks statement said.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for HRC, said, “We are pleased that the case can now be resolved on the merits of the claims and not a sweeping negation of basic Title VII protections.” And NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter credited Saks with “correcting its position and recognizing that it has a legal obligation to treat transgender workers equally.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012 ruled in Macy v Holder that discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity is sex discrimination and so constituents a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed complaints in federal courts in Florida and Michigan in 2014 against two separate companies accused of discriminating against trans employees (Aimee Stephens and Brandi Branson). And last December, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ will no longer assert that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on sex “does not encompass gender identity per se (including transgender discrimination).”

 

—  Tammye Nash

EEOC files first-ever lawsuits on behalf of transgender workers

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has, for the first time ever, filed federal lawsuits on behalf of transgender workers fired by Screen shot 2014-09-26 at 1.52.29 PMemployers because of the gender identity/gender expression.

EEOC filed suit against R.G & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes of Garden City, Mich., on behalf of embalmer and funeral director Amiee Stephens, and against Lakeland Eye clinic in Florida on behalf of Brandi Branson, according to reports by CBS channel  WWJ-TV in Detroit.

Stephens was fired in 2013 after 6 years with the Garden City funeral home when she told her boss she was transitioning from male to female. That lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Branson was fired from her job as director of hearing services at Lakeland Eye in 2011 after saying that she would be transitioning from male to female. The lawsuit in her case, filed in a Tampa federal court, alleges that when Branson began wearing “feminine attire” to work, including makeup and “women’s tailored clothing,” she saw her coworkers snickering and rolling their eyes at her, and that coworkers “withdrew from social interactions with her.”

EEOC attorney Laurie Young told the Detroit TV station that federal law “prohibits employers from firing employees because they do not behave according to the employer’s stereotypes of how men and women should act.”

—  Tammye Nash

Gay man’s EEOC complaint against Granbury bank heads to mediation

Edwards.Marty2

Marty Edwards

Although local attorneys declined to take the case of an area bank executive fired for his sexual orientation, the ACLU has stepped in to help after seeing the story in Dallas Voice, and the case is now headed to mediation.

Amanda Goad, an ACLU attorney with the LGBT and AIDS Project based in New York, who covers a number of states including Texas, contacted Marty Edwards after our story ran. She believed Edwards, who was fired last year from First National Bank of Granbury, could file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint under the category of sexual discrimination.

She cited an EEOC policy relating to discrimination based on marital status, political affiliation, status as a parent, sexual orientation or gender identity status in federal employment.

“The Commission has also found that claims by lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals alleging sex-stereotyping state a sex discrimination claim under Title VII. See Veretto v. U.S. Postal Service,” the EEOC policy states.

She wrote to Edwards in an email that the decision equates sexual orientation discrimination with sexual discrimination based on the perception of the assumptions of the roles of men.

“Favoring a straight man who has a wife and kids, over a gay man who doesn’t, sounds like a strong example of what they’re talking about,” Goad wrote.

Edwards was fired during a meeting with two other bank executives. One told him, “I don’t care if you are seeing Billy Graham as your counselor,” and the other said, “You obviously have some things messed up in your head.”

“They said it was not my work because I did a great job,” Edwards told Dallas Voice. “I was told that one guy who has three kids, a wife and white picket fence home was a better fit for the image we are looking for.”

Following our article that appeared in January, Edwards filed an EEOC claim based on his firing after seeking counseling. After speaking to Goad, Edwards amended the claim to include sexual discrimination.

He couldn’t file a claim simply on sexual orientation discrimination, because it is legal to fire someone based on sexual orientation under both Texas and federal law.

The bank has agreed to mediation on the counseling claim and they will meet on March 27.

—  David Taffet

Chai Feldblum appointed to EEOC

Her confirmation was held up for the longest time because she’s a lesbian. Interesting that it suddenly got through.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Senate Confirms Chai Feldblum as Commissioner at EEOC

Chai Feldblum, EEOC Commissioner, was finally officially confirmed by the Senate this week.

Feldblum You may recall that wingnuts ferociously opposed Feldblum's nomination before she was recess appointed in March, saying that "Feldblum intends to use her position of influence as EEOC commissioner to force private institutions to follow her radical vision of society, through the enforcement of aggressive and intrusive employment non-discrimination laws."

Windy City Media reports:

"In one of its last acts of the current session, on December 22, 2010, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nominations of Jacqueline A. Berrien to be Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Chai R. Feldblum ( a long-time lesbian activist ) and Victoria A. Lipnic to be Commissioners; and P. David Lopez to be the General Counsel. All four were nominated to their positions by President Barack Obama and had been serving under recess appointments since April, 2010."

Feldblum is the first openly gay Commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

ADA, ENDA Drafter Appointed to EEOC

Last night, the Senate agreed on the appointment of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Ms. Feldblum was nominated by the President on September 14, 2009.  After her nomination was held up in the Senate for well over 6 months, the President appointed Ms. Feldblum during a Congressional recess on March 27, 2010.  As a recess appointee, Ms. Feldblum’s appointment would have expired at the end of 2011; with last night’s vote, her appointment will last through July 2013.

Ms. Feldblum’s appointment is critical to addressing fair workplaces.  The EEOC investigates discrimination complaints and retaliation for reporting and/or opposing a discriminatory practice.  It is empowered to file discrimination suits against employers on behalf of alleged victims and to adjudicate claims of discrimination brought against federal agencies.

In addition, Ms. Feldblum is exceptionally well qualified to serve as a commissioner on the EEOC.  She is a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and is the director of the Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic.  Ms. Feldblum has been a leader in the areas of disability rights, health care and LGBT policy.  She is an expert on workplace policies and laws, and was a key drafter of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

As an openly lesbian woman, Ms. Feldblum adds to the ever growing list of openly LGBT appointees in the Obama Administration.  For more information on openly LGBT appointments, please visit the Presidential Appointment Project at http://www.victoryinstitute.org/presidential.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Feldblum Confirmed to EEOC

Chai Feldblum X390 (FAIR) | ADVOCATE.COMChai Feldblum, a lawyer and veteran advocate for LGBT rights, has won
confirmation to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  admin