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EEOC ruling a key victory in battle over anti-transgender discrimination

Tuesday, July 16, 2013
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WASHINGTON — The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled in favor of a transgender federal employee who claimed she had been verbally and physically harassed at her job with a federal contractor and had been denied a position at a laboratory of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in California.

The ruling is an important victory for transgender citizens who, backed by the federal government for the first time, successfully used existing civil rights laws to challenge government and private employers accused of anti-transgender discrimination, reported Buzzfeed.

Mia Macy

In its July 8 decision, the EEOC found that “actions based on transgender status are actions based on sex and therefore covered by Title VII, the ATF’s actions were discrimination based on sex and therefore prohibited by Title VII.”

The case dates to 2010 when Mia Macy, a military veteran who had been working as a detective with the Phoenix, Ariz., police department had applied for a position at the ATF’s Walnut Creek Laboratory, a position that she claimed that a section chief there told her “was (hers), pending the outcome of (a) background check.”

Macy, who at time still identified as a man, began the background check process in late 2010 using her male birth name name, reported Buzzfeed. The background check proceeded until early April 2011, when Macy informed the company handling the process that she would be reporting to work as a woman.

Within hours of receiving documentation of Macy’s new name on April 6, 2011, a supervisor at the ATF laboratory where Macy was expecting to work stopped a routine background investigation and canceled her hire.

When Macy filed a discrimination complaint with the ATF’s equal employment opportunity office, it initially rejected her claim that anti-transgender discrimination was covered under Title VII.

She appealed that decision, which sent the case to the EEOC, where the five commissioners ruled without dissent in April 2012 that discrimination claims based on transgender status are covered under the law’s prohibition of sex discrimination.

The decision meant that a full investigation into Macy’s claims would proceed within the Justice Department.

In its ruling last week, the EEOC found that the ATF’s actions were discriminatory, and that “the record established that the ATF intended and began taking steps to hire complainant for the position—until she disclosed that she was transitioning from a man to a woman. The ATF stopped complainant’s hiring process when it learned that complainant … would become Mia Macy.”

The 51-page decision requires that, within 60 days, the ATF offer Macy the job she was seeking at the Walnut Creek facility and awarded her back pay and benefits, with interest, and attorney’s fees.

The EEOC also ordered the ATF take corrective action to prevent future cases of discrimination, and post notices within 30 days that it is in compliance with federal statues regarding employment law.

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