EEOC Joins ‘Gender Identity’ Lawsuit

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a motion to join a transgender man’s lawsuit against First Tower Loan, saying that addressing discrimination based on gender identity is a “priority issue for the commission.” The lawsuit was brought by Tristan Broussard in the U.S. District Court in Louisiana and alleges that days after he explained to a manager that he was a transgender man, a First Tower vice president told him that he must dress and act as a woman in the workplace because dressing as a man would be confusing to customers.

The EEOC, in its motion to intervene, cites to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling inPrice Waterhouse v. Hopkinsthat discrimination on the basis of gender stereotypes is “because of sex” and violates Title VII, and argues that this lawsuit concerning transgender issues requires the same conclusion. It is the EEOC’s position that “there is no reason why an employer should fire an employee because he is transgender or because he does not fit with the employer’s notions of gender conformity. Title VII makes that illegal.” In its response, First Tower maintains this case only involves enforcement of a standard company dress code/grooming policy. Broussard v. First Tower Loan LLC d/b/a Tower Loan of Lake Charles, Case No. 2:15-cv-01161 (D.C. La.).  

IMPACT: Because gender identity discrimination is a priority issue for the EEOC, employers should be cautious to avoid creating or enforcing policies that require gender conformity.