Amicus Brief Asks Court to Affirm Lower Court Ruling Prohibiting Discrimination Against Transgender Employees
Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Transgender Law Center filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court highlighting the stories of over 30 transgender people who have experienced discrimination in the workplace for being transgender. In the brief, civil rights attorneys argued that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is a form of sex discrimination and is thus illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The brief is being filed on behalf of 46 organizations dedicated to eradicating discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people.
“Before the Supreme Court rules on the rights of transgender employees, it is essential that they hear the voices and experiences of transgender people,” Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Chinyere Ezie said. “All transgender people, and especially transgender people of color, know that discrimination is real and it is dangerous: it fuels poverty, homelessness, and mass incarceration.”
In the case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes V. EEOC, et al., the Supreme Court will decide whether discrimination against transgender people falls under the category of sex discrimination that the Civil Rights Act prohibited in 1964. Five appellate courts have already ruled that anti-transgender discrimination is prohibited sex discrimination, but the highest Court has yet to weigh in.
“As the stories featured in this brief make clear, this case is about nothing less than trans people’s ability to survive and thrive in this country,” said Kris Hayashi, Executive Director at Transgender Law Center. “We are living in an extreme moment of violence against trans people of color, and this year alone, at least eleven Black trans women have been murdered. When the government argues in favor of illegal discrimination, it sends the dangerous message that trans people do not deserve the same opportunities as everyone else to support our families, pursue our dreams, and simply live our lives. Sanctioning discrimination against trans people pushes us to the margins and emboldens violence against us.”
Transgender people widely face discrimination in the workplace and often have trouble being hired in the first place. In the brief, legendary transgender rights activist and Stonewall veteran Miss Major Griffin-Gracy recounts how workplace discrimination forced her into sex work in order to stave off homelessness: “Employers said that my gender expression was ‘vile,’ ‘disgusting,’ and ‘annoying.’ I was called ‘an abomination’ and ‘a man in a dress.’… I was told they did not want the ‘kind of attention’ I would bring to their company. They told me they couldn’t have ‘my kind’ in a place of business.”
The brief also includes stories from dozens of transgender people who have lost jobs, been passed over for promotions, or faced routine harassment because of who they are, such as a military veteran and former police detective of 18 years who was denied a position at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after disclosing she was transgender, and a man in New York who was harassed and sexually assaulted because of his gender, and fired just days after reporting the incident.
In March 2018, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that firing a transgender employee on the basis of their transgender status constitutes illegal sex discrimination. That ruling followed the precedent set in Macy v. Holder in 2012 and Lusardi v. Department of Army in 2015, two cases Transgender Law Center brought before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Several similar cases have progressed through the courts. Advocates believe this is one of the most consequential cases concerning transgender rights in decades.
The case will be heard by the Supreme Court next term, which begins in October 2019.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, the Transgender Law Center, and the law firm of Akerman LLP are counsel of record on the brief.
The full list of signatories includes: Audre Lorde Project, Campaign for Southern Equality, Casa Ruby, Garden of Peace, Inc., Gender Benders, Gender Justice,Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network, Griffin-Gracy Educational Retreat & Historical Center, Intersex & Genderqueer Recognition Project, Invisible Men, Lavender Rights Project, Louisiana Trans Advocates, Maine Transgender Network, Inc., Marsha P. Johnson Institute, Maryland Trans*Unity, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, No Justice No Pride, Noelle Jenkins Family Center, Inc., OutRight Action International, Positively Trans, Ruth Ellis Center, Inc., Solutions NOT Punishment Collaborative, Strategic Transgender Alliance for Radical Reform, TGI Justice Project, TGI Network of Rhode Island, Trans Can Work, Trans Empowerment Project, Trans Lifeline, Trans Masculine Advocacy Network, Trans Pride Initiative, Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia, Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, TransLife Care – Chicago House and Social Service Agency, TransOhio, Inc., TransSOCIAL, Inc., and Whitman-Walker Health.
Read the brief here.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.
Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating for a world in which all people are free to define themselves and their futures. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation. Learn more at transgenderlawcenter.org.