Are Transgender Employees Protected From Hostile Work Environment Harassment?
For more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida sexual orientation discrimination lawyers have fought for the rights of employment discrimination victims. Through their extensive experience representing employment discrimination, our Ocala, Florida sexual orientation discrimination attorneys know that many employers continue to act as if they are lawfully permitted to discriminate against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. In its landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, 140 S.Ct. 1731 (2020), the U.S. Supreme Court determined that discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status constitutes unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). In this article, our Marion County, Florida sexual orientation discrimination lawyers explain how the Bostock decision also protects transgender employees from harassment because of their transgender status.
Transgender Employees’ Rights
Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex. Under well-established law, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination forbidden by Title VII. To violate Title VII, sexual harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working environment. Employers violate Title VII when they create or maintain a sexually hostile work environment.
In ruling that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status is a form of unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title VII, the Bostock Court also determined that harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII. When an employee is harassed on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status, and the harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working environment, the harassment constitutes a form of unlawful sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.
Transgender Worker Claims Unlawful Harassment
The decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Doe v. Triangle Doughnuts, LLC, 472 F.Supp.3d 115 (E.D. Pa. 2020) demonstrates that, in harmony with the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock Title VII protects transgender employees from harassment on the basis of their transgender status. In that case, Doe, who is a transgender female and identifies herself by a female name, brought a hostile work environment harassment claim against her former employer, Triangle Doughnuts, LLC (TD), pursuant to Title VII. Doe maintains that she was unlawfully harassed because of her transgender status in violation of Title VII.
TD operates a Dunkin’ Donuts. Doe alleges that during the course of her employment from March 2018 until May 2018, she experienced discriminatory harassment because of her transgender status. Doe’s co-workers regularly misgendered Doe with a male name and male pronouns despite her requests to use her female name and female pronouns. Management-level employees, such as the store manager and assistant manager, acted similarly by regularly referring to Doe as “he,” which Doe contends encouraged further misgendering and harassment by co-workers and customers.
Doe further alleges that co-workers asked inappropriate and probing questions throughout her employment. For example, one co-worker asked Doe “are you a tranny?” Another co-worker asked Doe about her “sexual orientation” and whether Doe was going to have “[her] penis removed.” Another co-worker asked Doe “why do you wear a bra if you don’t have breasts?” When Doe responded by stating that she is a transgender female and identifies as a female, the co-worker stated “boy, you know you’re not.”
Doe also maintains that she was subjected to a stricter dress code than other female employees and other cisgender employees whose general identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth. For example, Doe was required to wear her hair in a ponytail and prohibited from wearing nail polish or makeup. Doe was also told “don’t use the women’s bathroom” because “customers don’t feel comfortable with you going in there.” Doe further alleges that management changed her job duties in order to keep her out of the site of customers.
Transgender Worker Protected From Harassment
TD filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Doe’s discriminatory harassment claim. In doing so, TD argued that Doe’s claim that she was unlawfully harassed because of her transgender status has not been recognized as a legal cause of action under Title VII. The trial court rejected TD’s argument and ruled that Doe had alleged sufficient facts to state a hostile work environment harassment claim under Title VII.
At the outset of its opinion, the trial court pointed out that the Supreme Court held in Bostock that “Title VII’s language protects homosexual and transgender individuals from discrimination.” “It naturally follows,” the trial court reasoned, that harassment on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status “falls within Title VII’s prohibitions.” Having found that Doe was protected from Title VII from discriminatory harassment because of her transgender status, the trail court explained that the “question becomes whether Doe has pleaded facts capable of making out her hostile work environment [harassment] claim.”
In finding that Doe had, the trial court pointed to Doe’s allegations that she was “prevented from using the women’s restroom, had her duties changed as to be kept out of the view of customers, was asked probing questions about her anatomy and gender identity, [and] was subject to a stricter dress code than other female and cisgender employees.” These allegations, the trial court concluded, were sufficient to establish that Doe was subjected to sufficiently severe or pervasive harassment because of her transgender status in violation of Title VII.
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Ocala, FL Sexual Orientation Discrimination Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida sexual orientation discrimination attorneys have fought for the rights of hostile work environment harassment victims for more than twenty years. If you have been required to work in a hostile work environment or have questions about your protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida sexual orientation discrimination lawyers.