Transgender Workers Now Covered by Federal Discrimination Law
Protections part of 1964 Civil Rights Act
ANCHORAGE - The battle over rights for lesbian, gay and transgendered people has taken a new turn, one that may not sit well with Anchorage residents who voted against Proposition Five in the last election.
The federal government says employers can’t discriminate against people based on their gender identity.
Tom Stenson, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, says job discrimination based solely on a person’s sex is already illegal under Title Seven of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) decided discrimination against those who are transgendered when it comes to hiring or firing is also a form of discrimination based on sex.
Commission members say it means people who feel they have experienced discrimination because of their gender identity can file a formal complain. The commission will investigate and try to mediate an agreement: If none can be found and the complaint is considered valid, employers could face big fines.
So what does “transgendered” actually mean? It’s a term many people find confusing. According to the EEOC, it generally refers to a person who is born one sex but identifies and presents themselves as another. What transgendered does not mean is "transvestite," a person who wears clothes of the opposite sex for pleasure. In fact, transgendered has nothing to do with sexual orientation at all, and the new protections don’t extend to gays, lesbians or bisexuals.
The new rules apply to employers who have more than 15 employees and take effect immediately. There are exceptions to the new rules for religious institutions but not for people who simply have religious objections.