Federal Court of Appeals Holds that Title VII Protects Against Transgender Status

Today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals — the federal appellate court that hears appeals from the federal courts in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee — held that Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of their transgender or transitioning status. 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their race, color, sex, gender, national origin, and religion.

The courts have construed Title VII’s sex-discrimination prohibition to likewise prohibit sexual harassment and even discrimination against an employee for failing to conform to traditional gender norms.

As we’ve discussed here multiple times, several other federal appellate courts — the Seventh and Second Circuit Courts of Appeals — have held that Title VII also prohibits discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation. The Sixth Circuit hasn’t squarely addressed this particular issue in some time, but it’s hard to reconcile this new opinion regarding transgender status with its prior opinions holding that Title VII doesn’t protect against sexual orientation discrimination. It’s simply a matter of time before that line of cases is reversed and sexual orientation becomes a protected class under the statute.

If you have any questions about how the Court’s opinion impacts you, your co-workers, or your organization, give us a call today.


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