Let’s Talk Rights: Legal Protections Against Gender Identity Discrimination
Did you know that laws exist to prevent discrimination based on gender identity at your workplace? Yes, you read that right. And today, we’re going to talk about one such case that is a landmark development in the struggle for gender identity rights.
Recently, a case against T.C. Wheelers, a popular bar and pizzeria in Tonawanda, New York, made headlines. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed this lawsuit. The reason? Alleged sex-based harassment against an employee, Quinn Gambino, a transgender man. Employees and customers harassed him by making crude and derogatory references about his transgender status, including telling him that he “wasn’t a real man,” and asking invasive questions about his transition.
The EEOC alleged that the owners and staff repeatedly and intentionally misgendered Gambino by using female pronouns and failed to corral the behavior of employees and customers who engaged in similar conduct. Despite reporting the harassment to his manager on several occasions, the unsettling behavior continued until Gambino was forced to resign.
“The EEOC considers protecting members of the LGBTQIA+ community to be an important enforcement priority. We will continue to assure that transgender employees receive the full benefit of federal anti-discrimination laws in all industries.”
Such conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. After attempting to resolve the issue in a pre-litigation settlement, the EEOC filed suit.
The result? T.C. Wheelers agreed to pay Gambino $25,000 in back pay and compensatory damages. But, the resolutions went beyond that. T.C. Wheelers also had to enforce equal employment opportunity policies to prevent unlawful sex discrimination and harassment, especially towards transgender persons. Further, to ensure fairness, it hired an independent human resources monitor to supervise and investigate employee grievances.
This case represents a major victory for those who have been victims of gender identity discrimination in the workplace. But it’s more than that. It sends a strong message to employers nationwide that disrespecting an individual’s gender identity won’t be tolerated.
The EEOC’s New York District Director, Yaw Gyebi, Jr., emphasized the EEOC’s commitment to ensuring that transgender employees receive the full benefit of federal anti-discrimination laws in all industries, saying, “The EEOC considers protecting members of the LGBTQIA+ community to be an important enforcement priority. We will continue to assure that transgender employees receive the full benefit of federal anti-discrimination laws in all industries.”This case serves as a reminder that no one should have to experience discrimination based on their gender identity.