The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is cracking down on the discriminatory treatment of transgender employees. Recently, a New York-based pizzeria agreed to pay $25,000 and agreed to other terms to settle a case brought by the EEOC that alleged that the owner of the restaurant and several staff members told their transgender co-worker “wasn’t a real man,” and asked the employee about his transition and genitalia.
Unfortunately, transgender employees experience high rates of employment discrimination, prompting the EEOC to take action. A recent study found that 48.8% of transgender employees experienced discrimination based on their LGBTQ+ status. The same study found that 43.9% reported not being hired because of their LGBTQ+ status. It also found that a staggering 43.8% of transgender employees reported verbal harassment during the course of their careers.
Employers must take affirmative steps to protect their LGBTQ+ employees and shield themselves from civil liability. Those steps should include:
- Creating and implementing policies and procedures prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation,
- Including regular (at least yearly) training, which includes all forms of unlawful discrimination, including but not limited to LGBTQ+ discrimination,
- Fostering a tolerant and welcoming culture through educational and other events and programs,
- Communicating a strong commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion,
- Providing employees a road map to reporting allegedly discriminatory conduct, and
- Taking allegations of discrimination seriously and taking effective, remedial steps to ensure that it’s dealt with and does not occur again.