Transgender Employee Rights in the Workplace

Interacting with the employment world as a transgender individual comes with significant challenges, specifically including harassment, discrimination, and termination. Transgender men and women who only wish to make a living and pursue their careers continually deal with transphobia and employment discrimination. More recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) interpreted Title VII Sex Discrimination to include the transgender population, and this radically changes employment.

Early on Fortune 500 companies took notice of the transgender community and adapted to include gender identity in their employee policies. Some created company policies for handling transgender transition within the company. Although quietly done, these leaders in industry are altering the employment landscape for the transgender community.

Stories of Transgender Employment Discrimination

Alli remembered the day that she spoke to her boss about transitioning her gender. Her boss fired her on the spot, had her pack up her desk, and marched her off of the premises. Previously, Alli had been the rising star in the company. Being fired was a gut punch to Alli’s career and life.

Sky worked an administrative position at a hospital. In every other part of his life, he’d chosen the male gender. He told his boss that he wanted to be acknowledged as a “he.” Sky’s boss balked but promised to notify management. Two weeks later, Sky’s hours were shortened. He continued to be misgendered. Sky was fired for alleged “poor performance,” but he believes that he was discriminated against due to his gender.

EEOC on Transgender Discrimination

When it comes to Transgender Employee Rights in the workplace, the EEOC believes that the Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination includes gender identity and sexual orientation. The EEOC upholds that these protections apply in every situation regardless of state or local laws that are contrary to this interpretation.

Over the years, the EEOC has used investigation, conciliation, and litigation to reinforce the employment protections for Transgender employees as well as all LGBT employees. Court decisions are reflecting this interpretation of Title VII. But in the mean time, the EEOC has obtained monetary relief for LGBT individuals, employer policy changes, and informal resolutions as well.

Transgender Employee Rights in the Workplace

The EEOC outlines unlawful sexual discrimination in the workplace in regards to transgender situations. Transgender employees must know their rights to recognize when the law offers protections from employer discrimination and when it doesn’t. An employment lawyer can help transgender employees understand their rights.

  1. A transgender job applicant should not be barred from a job due to his or her sexual identity.
  2. An employee should not face discrimination or termination because he or she is planning a gender transition.
  3. No employee should suffer harassment because of his or her gender transition.
  4. Employers are obligated to provide equal employment opportunities, including in pay or health benefits, to all employees regardless of gender.
  5. Using derogatory terms or comments towards an employee or coworker due to his or her sexual identity in a public or private setting is harassment.

Through new legislation, the EEOC believes that a transgender woman should be allowed to use the common women’s restroom, and when not allowed, this is considered disparate treatment. Intentional misgendering or misuse of a transgender employee’s new pronoun or name could also be considered sex discrimination. Transgender employees must know their employee rights and symptoms of discrimination.


If you have experienced at work, contact an employment lawyer who will know how to navigate your case and your rights under the law.

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