The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was comprehensive legislation prohibiting discrimination in both the private and public sectors. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” and applies to employers with fifteen or more employees” (Civil Rights Act 1964). Race, color, religion, sex, and national origin are protected classes that are specifically covered under the statute. Since the time that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, the social landscape in the United States has changed a great deal. Generally speaking, the nation has become much more tolerant, and this is reflected in the emergence of the LGBT community and the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the fundamental right to same-sex marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015). But despite these great strives towards equality, the fact remains that sexual orientation and transgender are not protected classes under the anti-discrimination mandate of Title VII. The time has come when transgender individuals should receive specific anti-discrimination protection under Title VII and should be ale to utilize Title VII to bring discrimination charges against an employer with the EEOC.
Transgender individuals continue to face discrimination in the employment context. While Title VII defines “sex” as a protected class, until recently, “sex” has been interpreted narrowly to exclude the coverage of transgender persons (Raflo, 2010, p. 224). Many plaintiffs seeking to bring a claim for relief under Title VII will have to overcome the definitional barrier of the traditional interpretation of “sex.” Some courts, however, have been receptive to expanding the definition to include individuals that identify as transgender. In a recent case out of DC, the court observed that “gender identity is a component of sex, discrimination on the basis of gender identity is sex discrimination” (Raflo, 2010, p. 243). In light of the increasing social tolerance and acceptance of transgender and other LGBT members, it is likely that more courts will interpret “sex” under Title VII broadly in order to protect transgender employees against workplace discrimination.
Transgender individuals have experienced an uphill battle in their fight for equal rights, protection, an visibility among minority groups. While the law has been much more receptive to affording transgender individuals protection in the workplace, not enough is being done. Title VII should be amended, or a new federal law should be passed, to include transgender among the protected classes of persons that employers are prohibited from discriminating against.
Civil Rights Act of 1964, Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241 (1964). Web. 12 Feb. 2016.
Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S.Ct. 2584. Supreme Court of the US (2015). Web. 12 Feb.
Raflo, Amanda. “Evolving Protection for Transgender Employees Under Title VII’s Sex
Discrimination Prohibition: A New Era Where gender Is More Than
Chromosomes. Charlotte Law Review (2010): 217-250. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.