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Attorney General Announces Civil Rights Act Protests Transgendered People

The Attorney General of the United States announced that the Department of Justice will treat workplace discrimination against transgender people as sex discrimination, which is illegal under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

Attorney General Eric Holder clarified the Obama administration’s position in a Department of Justice memo.

“This will help to foster fair and consistent treatment for all claimants. And it reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Americans,” wrote Holder.

According to The Washington Post (12.18.14), some of the most significant challenges for transgender people include getting a job and being accepted by their colleagues.

In his memo, Holder acknowledged that “Congress may not have had such claims in mind when it enacted Title VII.” But he wrote the Supreme Court has made clear that Title VII must be interpreted according to its “plain text.”

The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey asked 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States to answer questions about the depth and breadth of injustice in their lives. According to the Executive Summary, transgender people experienced double the rate of unemployment as the general population and ninety percent experienced widespread mistreatment in the workplace.

Forty-seven percent said they had been fired, not hired, denied a promotion or otherwise experienced an adverse job effect because of being transgender.

In New York, transgender state workers have been protected from discrimination in the workplace since 2009. In April 2012, the U.S.Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared that transgender federal employees are protected from discrimination under Title VII. These laws protect not only people who have had gender reassignment surgery or who live as a member of the opposite sex, but also men who are discriminated against for appearing overly feminine or women for appearing overly masculine. Holder’s DOJ memo clarifies the government’s position on the issue for all employers and employees in the U.S.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced more good news for New York’s transgender citizens on December 17. Medicaid will be required to join most private health insurers in New York in covering all medically necessary health care for trans people. This would include talk therapy, hormone therapy, and gender-affirming surgeries, reported The Advocate (12.18.14).

The Washington Post article cited is “DOJ: Transgender people can’t be discriminated against at work.”

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