Thursday, September 15, 2016


The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission continues its commitment in enforcing transgender opportunity in the work place. Recently, it filed suit against Rent-A-Center for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that it discharged an employee because she is transgender. 

The employee brought her claim to the Commission after she was discharged for what she believed were pretextual reasons. The EEOC investigated the matter and found evidence that  the company’s managers disapproved of the employee’s gender transition and that was the motivating factor in firing her.

The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process. The Rent-A-Center location that hired and eventually discharged the employee is located in Rantoul, Illinois so the agency has filed suit in the District Court in the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division. 

This may set up an interesting test for the court in this jurisdiction. Recently, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act did not provide protection on the basis of sexual orientation, because that characteristic was not identified as being protected in Title VII. Similarly, Title VII does not identify transgender characteristics as protected under the Act. It will be interesting to see how the court rules in the Rent-A-Center case. 

The EEOC’s fact sheet lists their recent cases regarding Title VII and LGBTQ related discrimination. Since 2012, the commission has formed a Strategic Enforcement Plan to prioritize the rights of transgender employees and they have done so through a multitude of litigations. Remember, the EEOC’s commitment to gender protection is important to understand in order to create a more accepting workplace and of course to avoid being on the wrong end of a complaint.