Earlier this month, an arbitrator found in favor of a young transgender man who alleged he was fired from his job as a manager trainee at a financial institution after he refused to sign a written statement agreeing to act and be treated as a female rather than a male while at work. The employer, Tower Loan, had filed a motion to compel arbitration last year.
The plaintiff, Tristan Broussard, alleged in his Complaint that Tower Loan fired him in 2013 after he refused to sign the agreement, which stated the following:
“I understand that my preference to act and dress as a male, despite having been born a female, is not something that will be in compliance with Tower Loan’s personnel policies.
I have been advised as to the proper dress for females and also have been provided a copy of the female dress code. I also understand that when meetings occur that require out of town travel and an overnight room is required, I will be assigned to a room with a female.”
According to the arbitrator’s ruling, Mr. Broussard “involuntarily resigned in order to escape an intolerable and illegal employment requirement imposed by the corporate office.” The arbitrator awarded Mr. Broussard economic damages totaling over a year’s salary, as well as additional damages for emotional distress.
As this case illustrates, many courts have recognized that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender employees from sex discrimination in the workplace. Of course, The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals quite recently dealt with the issue of transgender rights in another setting – North Carolina’s law regarding bathroom gender restrictions. In a landmark ruling, the Fourth Circuit held in April 2016 that federal law—Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—prohibited public schools from denying transgender students access to the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
The Fourth Circuit’s reasoning regarding deference to the Education Department’s interpretation of sex discrimination as covering discrimination against transgender individuals provides additional support to the interpretation of Title VII by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As with the Department of Education, the EEOC now construes Title VII to prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity as part of the law’s protections against sex discrimination.
If you believe you have been the victim of sex discrimination in the workplace, please call us to schedule a consultation at 703-865-7480.