Lambda Legal, Freedom to Work Resolve EEOC Complaint on Behalf of Maryland Transgender Woman
(New York, July 15, 2013) - Lambda Legal and Freedom to Work have reached a settlement on behalf of a transgender woman employed by a government contractor in Maryland. The woman filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and alleged that she was subjected to physical and verbal harassment in the workplace over a two year period. Co-workers also allegedly made comments such as "tranny," "drag queen," and "faggot." After conducting an investigation, the EEOC issued a September 2012 letter with a determination of reasonable cause to believe the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act:
'The investigation revealed that Charging Party was subjected to derogatory gender-based comments that were frequently made by both co-workers and supervisors. Both Charging Party and witness interviews revealed that Respondent's management failed to take corrective action despite being fully aware of the harassment Charging Party was being subjected to. This lack of corrective action enabled the harassment and offensive atmosphere to continue.'
"Slowly but surely, we are gaining recognition of the rights of LGBT employees, but this case shows that employers and employees need laws that spell out gender identity and sexual orientation protections specifically, to help prevent discrimination in the first place," said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta. "We need action by the 113th Congress to pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), and even more immediately, President Obama should sign the executive order banning LGBT discrimination by companies that profit from federal contracts. That executive order should have broad support across the political spectrum, since federal dollars should neither fund discrimination nor go to employers whose personnel and productivity suffer because discrimination and harassment are tolerated."
"We applaud the EEOC for conducting such a thorough investigation and interviewing so many witnesses to the anti-transgender harassment," said Tico Almeida, President of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work. "Coming just a few months after the EEOC issued its historic decision that transgender people are protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC’s reasonable cause determination in this case is, to our knowledge, the first time in history that the EEOC has investigated allegations of anti-transgender harassment and ruled for the transgender employee. This case shows that the EEOC takes very seriously its role in protecting LGBT Americans' freedom to work."
Although denying admission of any wrongdoing, the government contractor agreed to re-publicize its non-discrimination policies and conduct anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training at its facility, including a focus on transgender and other LGBT issues. In light of the constructive steps taken to move past this episode by this contractor, and because our emphasis is on a systemic resolution to the problem of LGBT discrimination in federal contractor workplaces, Freedom to Work and Lambda Legal are not publicizing the name of their client or this particular government contractor.