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HISTORIC: EEOC ruling protects trans workers from discrimination

Agency interprets Title VII to protect workers against gender identity discrimination

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In a historic ruling, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that job bias against employees on the basis of gender identity amounts to sex discrimination under existing law.

The determination came about as part of the resolution of a case filed by the Transgender Law Center on behalf of Mia Macy, a transgender woman who allegedly was denied a job as a ballistics technician at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’s laboratory in Walnut Creek, Calif., after she announced she was transitioning from male to female. The decision, made unanimously by the commission on a 5-0 vote, was made public Monday evening.

“[W]e conclude that intentional discrimination against a transgender individual because the person is transgender is, by definition, discrimination ‘based on … sex,’ and such discrimination therefore violates Title VII,” the decision states.

EEOC is the federal agency that interprets and enforces federal non-discrimination laws. Its decision on transgender workers applies to both public and private employers throughout the United States, including in the 34 states where non-discrimination laws based on gender identity don’t exist.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Various courts have determined that transgender workers are protected against discrimination on the basis of this statute, but the decision on Monday marks the first time the EEOC has decided the law protects transgender workers.

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said the significance of the decision is “hard to overstate.”

“Transgender people already face tremendous rates of discrimination and unemployment,” Davis said. “The decision today ensures that every transgender person in the United States will have legal recourse to employment discrimination, and with it a way to safeguard their access to vital employment benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings plans.”

EEOC made the decision after the Obama administration was criticized by many in the LGBT community for deciding at this time against issuing an executive order requiring federal contractors to have non-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The EEOC decision could provide a path to provide transgender workers seeking a remedy against discrimination in lieu of the executive order.

While still presenting as male, Macy, a veteran and former police detective, was told in January 2011 she would receive a position she wanted at the Walnut Creek crime laboratory. As evidence of her impeding hire, Aspen of DC, the contractor responsible for filling the position, contacted her to begin the necessary paperwork and said an investigator was performing a background check.

But after informing the contractor in March 2011 that she would transition from male to female, Macy received an email from the contractor stating that the position, due to federal budget constraints, had been cut. Later, she was told someone else was awarded the position.

Believing she had faced job discrimination, Macy on June 13 filed a formal complaint with the EO for the agency, noting “gender identity” and “sex stereotyping” as the basis of her complaint. After some back-and-forth between Macy and the agency over whether she could seek relief under Title VII, Macy appealed the case in December to EEOC, which determined the law offers her protection as well as protection to other transgender workers.

In a statement, Macy thanked the Transgender Law Center for its support and said she was “proud” to be part of the groundbreaking decision.

“Although the discrimination I experienced was painful both personally and financially, and led to the loss of my family’s home to foreclosure, I’m proud to be a part of this groundbreaking decision confirming that our nation’s employment discrimination laws protect all Americans, including transgender people,” Macy said. “I’m grateful for the help of Transgender Law Center, which believed in me from the start and helped guide me through this process. No one should be denied a job just for being who they are.”

Still, the case isn’t yet over for Macy. The case has been remanded to ATF for further processing in light of the decision. If Macy requests a final decision without a hearing, the agency must render a decision within 60 days of receipt of her request.

EEOC draws on previous decisions that courts have made on whether Title VII provides protections to workers who face discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Among them is the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Glenn v. Brumby, in which plaintiff Vandy Beth Glenn, a transgender woman who was fired from her position as proofreader from the Georgia General Assembly in 2007 filed a lawsuit after she announced she would transition from male to female. The court ruled that an individual “cannot be punished because of his or her perceived gender-nonconformity” and these protections must be afforded to transgender people.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, called the decision a “major victory” and said it would further the case of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, legislation that would bar companies from discrimination against LGBT employees, and the sought-after executive order for federal contractors.

“As many as 90 percent of trans people still face tremendous discrimination in employment according to our National Discrimination Survey, and it will help so much that the EEOC agrees with what more and more courts have been saying — discriminating against trans people because of their sex, or their perceived sex, or what an employer thinks about their sex is clearly sex discrimination, illegal and wrong,” Keisling said.

Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said the decision expands upon Executive Order 11246, the existing directive prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of gender.

“We call on Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and her staff to issue new guidance for federal contractors to inform them that they cannot discriminate against transgender Americans while profiting from taxpayer-funded contracts,” Almeida said.

However, Almeida said Solis won’t have the authority to expand these protections to gay and lesbian Americans working for federal contractors until Obama “corrects the mistake announced by White House staff a few weeks ago” and issues an executive order for all LGBT workers at these companies.

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Florida House committee passes “Don’t Say Gay” bill

“LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased”

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Florida State Capitol building

TALLAHASSEE – A Republican majority Florida House Education & Employment Committee passed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, colloquially referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill advancing the measure to the full House.

HB 1557 and its companion Senate bill SB 1834, would ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, erasing LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves.

The bill also has provisions that appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements which could effectively “out” LGBTQ-identifying students to their parents without their consent.

“The Trevor Project’s research has found that LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” said Sam Ames, Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”

In an email to the Blade, Brandon J. Wolf, the Press Secretary for Equality Florida noted; “Governor DeSantis’ march toward his own personal surveillance state continues. Today, the Don’t Say Gay bill, a piece of legislation to erase discussion of LGBTQ people from schools in Florida, passed its first committee and became another component of an agenda designed to police us in our classrooms, doctor’s offices, and workplaces. Make no mistake — LGBTQ people are your neighbors, family members, and friends. We are a normal, healthy part of society and we will not be erased.”

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.

According to a recent poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth — and two-thirds of all LGBTQ youth (66%) — say recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

When asked about proposed legislation that would require schools to tell a student’s parent or guardian if they request to use a different name/pronoun or if they identify as LGBTQ at school, 56% of transgender and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 47% felt nervous and/or scared, 45% felt stressed, and more than 1 in 3 felt sad.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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California mom claims school manipulated child into changing gender identity

Jessica Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her

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Fox News host Laura Ingraham & Center for American Liberty CEO Harmeet Dhillon with client, Jessica Konen (Screenshot Fox News)

A Northern California mother is claiming teachers in a small school district in the state manipulated her daughter into changing her gender identity and name in a legal claim. 

The claim, filed by the ultra-conservative Center for American Liberty on behalf of the mother, alleged “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Spreckels Union School District, leading Jessica Konen’s 11-year-old daughter to change her gender identity and drive a wedge between them.

Specifically, the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, names two teachers – Lori Caldera and Kelly Baraki – at Buena Vista Middle who, in addition to teaching, ran the school’s Equality Club, later known as UBU (You Be You). Buena Vista is a part of the district. 

It comes after Abigail Shrier, the author of a book widely criticized as anti-trans, quoted what the two educators said last year at the California Teachers Association’s annual LGBTQ+ Issues Conference in a piece headlined “How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids.” Caldera and Baraki spoke about the difficulty of running a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in a socially conservative community. 

After the article was published, the teachers were put on administrative leave, and the district hired a law firm to investigate, which is ongoing. The UBU club was suspended. 

Spreckels is a town of about 400 people in the agricultural Salinas Valley, approximately 90 miles south of San Francisco

According to the complaint, Konen’s daughter began attending Equality Club meetings after being invited by a friend when she started sixth grade at Buena Vista. After attending one session, she decided it wasn’t for her until Caldiera convinced her to come back. At the gatherings, Caldera and Baraki held LGBTQ-centered discussions and introduced students to different gender identities and sexualities. 

During her time in the club, Konen’s daughter began exploring her own gender identity and sexuality, choosing to wear more masuline clothes. At some point, she decided to change her name and pronouns, which she has since changed back to her original name and pronouns. 

Konen said she was aware her daughter was bisexual but did not know she began using a male name and gender pronouns until she was called into the school when her daughter was in seventh grade. The meeting caught both Konen and her daughter by surprise – Konen’s daughter had said she wanted to notify her mother, but she did not know the meeting was that day. 

Konen gave the school permission to use the boy’s name for attendance and tried to be supportive but noted it was difficult for her. 

However, when Shrier’s article was published and circulated around the small town, everything changed. At this time, Konen’s daughter was again using a female name and pronouns.

In the leaked recording from the LGBTQ conference, Caldera and Baraki were discussing how they kept meetings private, among other things. 

“When we were doing our virtual learning — we totally stalked what they were doing on Google, when they weren’t doing school work,” Baraki said. “One of them was googling ‘Trans Day of Visibility.’ And we’re like, ‘Check.’ We’re going to invite that kid when we get back on campus.”

However, Caldera told the San Francisco Chronicle that the quotes were either taken out of context or misrepresented. According to Caldera, the stalking comment was a joke. She also defended their work, saying students lead the conversation and they provide honest and fair answers to their questions.
In addition, a spokesperson for the California Teachers Association criticized the group bringing the lawsuit forward, according to the Associated Press: “We are concerned about a political climate right now in which outside political forces fuel chaos and misinformation and seek to divide parents, educators and school communities for their own political gain, which is evident in this complaint. The Center for American Liberty is concerned with pushing its own political agenda through litigation and has filed multiple lawsuits against various school districts and communities.”

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GOP majority city council to repeal LGBTQ+ law in Pennsylvania

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move […] This issue should not be politicized”

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Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (Photo Credit: Borough of Chambersburg)

The council of this central Pennsylvania borough (town) will meet on Monday, January 24 for a likely vote to repeal an ordinance passed this last October that safeguards residents against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, ethnicity or gender identity.

Opposition to the ordinance is led by newly installed borough council president Allen Coffman, a Republican. In an interview with media outlet Penn Live Saturday, Coffman said, “All of us that ran in this election to be on council we think we got a mandate from the people,” he said. “People we talked to when we were campaigning did not like this ordinance at all. I don’t know what the vote will be, but I have a pretty good idea.”

The political makeup of the council changed with the November municipal election, which ushered in a 7-3 Republican majority.

The ordinance, which extends protections against discrimination to gay, transgender or genderqueer people in employment, housing and public accommodations, was passed in October by the then-Democratic majority council, Penn Live reported.

“I don’t know of any reasons for repealing it other than a political move,” said Alice Elia, a Democrat and the former Chambersburg borough council president. “This issue should not be politicized. It’s an issue of justice and having equal protection for everybody in our community. It shouldn’t be a political or a Democratic or Republican issue. This should be something we are all concerned about.”

Coffman told Penn Live that the ordinance serves no purpose and is redundant. He points out that Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Commission handles discrimination complaints from residents across the state.

“There are no penalties, no fines,” he said. “There’s nothing that the ordinance can make someone do. The most they can hope for is that the committee request the two parties to sit down with a counselor or mediator and talk about it. Quite frankly there is nothing that compels them to. There’s no teeth in this.”

Penn Live’s Ivey DeJesus noted if Chambersburg succeeds in repealing the ordinance, it would mark the first time an LGBTQ inclusive law is revoked in Pennsylvania. To date, 70 municipalities have ratified such ordinances.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is one of the 27 states in the nation that have no explicit statewide laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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