With the rise in anti-trans discrimination, it is important you know your rights as a trans person in the workplace. In the United States, legal protections are enacted on a federal, state and local level. There are currently no specific federal laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender people. However, some court rulings include discrimination against trans people in federal laws banning discrimination based on sex.
In June 2020, the Supreme Court decided that the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act will also protect queer and trans employees from discrimination based on sex. This ruling was a massive victory for LGBTQ+ workers in the US. It means that employers cannot legally discriminate against trans people in the workplace. While the Supreme Court’s decision specifically tackled employment discrimination, more rulings will be necessary to protect the trans and gender-diverse community from discrimination outside of the workplace.
Even if you live in a state with no legal protections for trans workers, your employer cannot legally discriminate against you because of your gender identity if they are subjected to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Title VII protections apply if your employer has 15 or more employees. If you work at a company with less than 15 employees, try to tackle it internally. However, if the discrimination persists and you are in a financial position to do so, consider looking for employment elsewhere.
States that protect trans people from employment discrimination
While there are no federal laws, twenty-two states have implemented laws that prohibit discrimination against trans people in the workplace. Employers are not allowed to fire you because you are trans or refuse to hire you because of your gender identity. This includes treating you differently at work because you are trans.
These are all the states that currently protect you in the workplace:
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
The Transgender Law Center, the largest US trans-led civil rights organisation, put together a document with tools for trans and gender-diverse people wishing to address discrimination. The organisation has also created a list of all the specific state laws that protect trans people from employment discrimination in the aforementioned states. This list includes respective links to where you can file a complaint.
What can you do if you are being discriminated against at work for being transgender?
If you are experiencing employment discrimination because you are trans, non-binary or gender-diverse, make sure to notify the HR department and your manager. Many issues can be resolved internally in your company. However, if they refuse to help or the discrimination does not stop or worsens, you may wish to file a complaint.
Danae, the CEO and founder of Valla, previously spoke with us about what legal steps to take if you are being discriminated against for being trans in the United Kingdom. However, she gave one piece of advice that translates well no matter what country you live in. Try to document as much as possible. If applicable, keep emails, photos or documents that could help your complaint.
Danae: When something happens, write down immediately who, what, where, when. Who said what, what happened, where did it happen and when, to the minute if possible, did it happen? Keep track of when you took that note. They will take it even more seriously if you have recorded the evidence as quickly as you could.
You can file a complaint stating that you are being discriminated against based on your gender identity with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You can also contact the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or their local affiliates for additional help.
How to file a complaint
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that helps you with employment discrimination. They act in accordance with Title VII’s protection of queer and transgender people in the workplace. You can file the complaint online, in person at your local EEOC office, by mail or at a state or local agency. While there are some exceptions, you usually have to file a charge within 180 days of the discriminatory action.
To file a complaint online, you need to go through the EEOC Public Portal. If you would rather visit an office in person, you can book an appointment either through the online portal or their walk-in appointments. Find out what office is closest to you HERE. If the EEOC determines it is appropriate for you to file an employment discrimination charge, they will prepare this for you to review and sign online. While this is not mandatory, make sure to bring any information or documents that could help your case, this includes names and details of people who know about what happened.
To file a complaint by mail, you need to send the EEOC a letter with the following information:
- Your name and contact details (address, email and phone number).
- The name and contact details of the employer you are filing your complaint against.
- The number of employees who are employed at your workplace (if known).
- A brief description of what behaviours or actions you think were discriminatory.
- When exactly you were discriminated against, when this behaviour took place.
- Why you believe you were discriminated against (here you would state that you believe it is because of your gender identity).
- Your signature. Remember to sign your letter because the EEOC cannot investigate your case without it.
Many states and localities have agencies that support laws prohibiting discrimination at work. EEOC works together with these agencies to ensure that you don’t need to file your complaint twice. If you file a complaint via the EEOC, this will automatically be filled with the state or local agency. If you file a complaint at an agency, you can ask them to file the complaint with the EEOC as well.
If you would like to know more about the EEOC and how to file a complaint, visit their website. For more information on your rights as a trans person in the UK workplace, read our blog HERE. We have also dedicated a section on our website with more information on fostering inclusivity in the workplace, discussing topics such as the importance of pronouns, how to create a safe space for trans people in the workplace and personal accounts of trans people who transitioned at work.