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Overview Of Federal Court Decisions Upholding Transgender Individuals’ Rights Against Sex Discrimination

Credit Nation Auto Sales, L.L.C. v. Chavez, 2016 WL 158820 (11th Cir. Jan. 14, 2016). Reversing the employer’s summary judgment on the plaintiff’s claim that she was fired from her job as an auto mechanic due to her gender identity, the court remanded the case for trial, finding that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence to raise a triable issue of fact regarding whether gender bias was a motivating factor. The employer claimed that the plaintiff was terminated for sleeping on the job and that other employees had also been terminated for the same offense. However, less than two months prior to the plaintiff’s termination, her supervisor stated that her transgender status made him “uneasy” and would have a detrimental effect on the business and coworkers. Additionally, the plaintiff received an excellent performance appraisal prior to disclosing her gender transition, and the employer violated its progressive disciplinary policy by imposing termination in her case.

Brumby v. Glenn, 663 F.3d 1312 (11th Cir. 2011). When the plaintiff, a transgender female, was terminated from her position with the Georgia General Assembly, she brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. The court concluded, based on Price Waterhouse and other Title VII precedent, that the defendant discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of her sex by terminating her due to her transition from male to female. The court stated that a person is classified as transgender “exactly because his or her behavior violates gender stereotypes.” As a result, discrimination against transgender individuals and discrimination based on “gender-based behavioral norms” are “congruent.” Because everyone is protected against discrimination based on sex stereotypes, such protections cannot be denied to transgender individuals. Additionally, the court concluded that discrimination based on gender stereotypes is subject to increased scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, and that the government’s termination of a transgender person for gender nonconformity constitutes unconstitutional sex discrimination. Although the defendant claimed in this case that it fired the plaintiff due to concerns about potential lawsuits if she used the women’s restroom, the record revealed that the plaintiff’s office only had single-use unisex restrooms, and thus there was no evidence that the defendant was motivated by litigation concerns about restroom use. Because the defendant offered no additional justification for its actions, the plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment.

City of Cincinnati v. Barnes, 401 F.3d 729 (6th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff claimed he was demoted as a result of his failure to conform to sex stereotypes. He claimed he was a “male-to-female transsexual who lived as a man on duty but frequently as a woman off duty [and] had a reputation throughout the police department as a homosexual, bisexual, or cross-dresser.”

City of Salem v. Smith, 378 F.3d 566 (6th Cir. 2004). The plaintiff claimed that he was suspended for expressing a more feminine appearance and informing his employer that he intended to eventually undergo a complete physical transformation from male to female. Title VII prohibits discrimination against transgender individuals based on gender stereotyping, the court held. The court held that discrimination against an individual based on gender nonconforming behavior violates Title VII regardless of the reason for the behavior. The court reasoned that prior case law denying Title VII protection to transgender employees was “eviscerated” by Price Waterhouse, in which the Supreme Court held that Title VII protected a woman who did not conform to social expectations about how women should look and behave.

214 F.3d 213 Rosa v. Parks W. Bank & Trust Co. (1st Cir. 2000). The court concluded, citing Title VII case law, that a transgender plaintiff who was biologically male asserted a claim of sex discrimination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by alleging that he was denied a loan application due to his dress in traditionally female attire.

204 F.3d 1187, 1201-02 Schwenck v. Hartford (9th Cir. 2000). The court concluded, citing Title VII case law, that a transgender woman asserted a claim of sex discrimination under the Gender Motivated Violence Act based on the perception that she was a “man who ‘failed to act like one.” The court noted that “the initial approach” taken in previous federal appellate Title VII cases.

F. Supp. 3d , 2017 WL 131658 Baker v. Aetna Life Ins., et al. The court determined that an employee stated a claim against her employer for sex discrimination in violation of Title VII based on the denial of coverage for costs associated with gender transition surgery under the employer-provided health insurance plan.

General Electric Co. v. Mickens, No. 3:16CV-00603-JHM, 2016 WL 7015665 (W.D. Ky. Nov. 29, 2016). The court denied the employer’s motion to dismiss a Title VII sex discrimination claim in which a transgender plaintiff alleged he was unlawfully denied access to a male restroom near his workstation and then fired for attendance issues caused by having to use a bathroom further away. Additionally, he claimed that after his supervisor learned of his transgender status, he was singled out for reprimands and that no action was taken in response to his reports of coworker harassment. Title VII prohibition against gender discrimination “may extend to certain situations in which the plaintiff does not conform to stereotypical gender norms.”

Clark County School Dist. v. Roberts, No. 2:15-cv-00388-JAD-PAL, 2016 WL 5843046 (D. Nev. Oct. 4, 2016). The court, explicitly adopting the EEOC’s holdings in Macy and Lusardi, found that plaintiff, a transgender school police officer, was subjected to sex discrimination in violation of Title VII when he was told by his employer that he could not use either the men’s or women’s restroom at work.

Ariz. v. Doe, 2016 WL 1089743 (D. Ariz. Mar. 21, 2016). The plaintiff, a corrections officer, alleged that the Department of Corrections violated Title VII’s prohibition on gender discrimination by tolerating harassment against him and breaching his confidentiality by informing prison inmates of his transition. Denying the employer’s motion to dismiss, the court noted that the EEOC and courts have held that Title VII’s sex discrimination provision prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender identity, and that the EEOC charge adequately described the claim, exhausting it.

Fabian v. Central Connecticut Hospital, 172 F. Supp. 3d 509 (D. Conn. 2016). Plaintiff, an orthopedic surgeon, filed a Title VII sex discrimination claim alleging she was denied employment after disclosing her identity as a transgender woman transitioning to female presentation. After an in-depth examination of Title VII’s legislative history and case law, the court concluded that Price Waterhouse overrules the narrow interpretation of the statute’s plain language that previously excluded sex discrimination claims by transgender individuals, citing supportive rulings from the 6th, 9th, and 11th Circuits, as well as the EEOC’s Macy decision. 143 F. Supp. 3d 134 (S.D.N.Y. 2015). (allowing equal protection claim by transgender individual to proceed under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983).

79 F. Supp. 3d 588 Lewis v. High Point Regional Health Sys (E.D.N.C. 2015). Plaintiff, a certified nursing assistant, claimed she was denied employment in several positions due to her gender identity. She was anatomically male at the time of her interviews and was undergoing hormone replacement therapy in preparation for future sex reassignment surgery. The district court denied the employer’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that sexual orientation was not covered by Title VII and that sexual orientation and gender identity are two distinct concepts. As a result, the court allowed plaintiff’s Title VII transgender discrimination claim to proceed.

Howard County, Maryland v. Finkle, 12 F. Supp. 3d 780 (D. Md. 2014). Denying the county’s motion for summary judgment on a Title VII claim brought by a volunteer auxiliary police officer, the court determined that the officer was a “employee” for Title VII purposes and that her claim of discrimination “because of her obvious transgendered status” raised a cognizable claim of sex discrimination. “It would appear that any discrimination against transsexuals (as transsexuals) – individuals who, by definition, do not conform to gender stereotypes – is prohibited by Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex, as interpreted by Price Waterhouse.”