Saks Victory

Transgender Law Center applauds Monday’s decision by Saks Fifth Avenue to withdraw its motion to dismiss in a federal case brought by a former employee alleging she was discriminated against, and eventually fired, because she is transgender.

Saks argued in its original motion that the case should be dismissed because, it alleged, transgender people are not protected under Title VII, the federal employment non-discrimination law. That amounted to essentially arguing they had a legal right to discriminate against transgender people. Saks’ decision to withdraw its motion came on the same day as the submission of a Statement of Interest from the U.S. Department of Justice affirming that Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender people. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also determined that discrimination against transgender people violates the prohibition on sex discrimination under Title VII.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Ms. Leyth Jamal, was required to use a men’s restroom, was constantly mis-gendered by management, and was told by her supervisor that she could not wear makeup or feminine-style clothing. She was also subjected to pervasive verbal harassment.  She was ultimately fired in 2012.

In response to the withdrawal, Transgender Law Center Legal Director Ilona Turner stated, “Saks made the right move. It’s only unfortunate that it took them this long to realize how unfounded and offensive their original motion was. It is well-settled that transgender people are protected under Title VII. Virtually every court to consider the question in the last fifteen years has recognized Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination protects transgender people from discrimination.” She added, “This case further demonstrates why it’s so important to enact explicit nondiscrimination laws that will leave no room for doubt that it is illegal for employers to discriminate based on gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Saks will continue to defend the lawsuit on its merits, but will no longer assert the argument that transgender people are not protected under Title VII. Ms. Jamal is represented by Jillian Weiss and Mitchell Katine.

Scroll down to read the Statement of Interest and the Notice of Withdrawal of Motion

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