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Transgendered Individuals Protected by Title VII

June 18, 2008
Related Topics: Discrimination and EEOC Compliance

In September 2005, Raul Lopez Jr., aka "Izza" Lopez, applied for a scheduler position with River Oaks, a medical clinic. Lopez was biologically male, but lived as a woman. On her job application, Lopez listed her legal and adopted names, and provided two current River Oaks employees aware of Lopez’s status as references. At least one of these individuals told the interviewers that Lopez was transgendered prior to her interview.

After Lopez passed required background and drug tests using her legal and adopted names and was offered a job by River Oaks, she was scheduled to begin working. River Oaks later withdrew its job offer, claiming that she had "misrepresented [herself] to [River Oaks] during the interview process" and had "presented [herself] as a female and [River Oaks] later learned [she was] a male."

Lopez filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, alleging discrimination because of sex under Title VII. The court held that Title VII protects transgendered individuals because "the plain language of Title VII and Price Waterhouse [v. Hopkins] … [does] not make any distinction between a transgendered litigant who fails to conform to traditional gender stereotypes and an ‘effeminate’ male or ‘macho’ female who … is perceived by others to be in nonconformity with traditional gender stereotypes." Lopez v. River Oaks Imaging & Diagnostic Group, Inc., S.D. Tex., No. H-06-3999 (4/3/08).

Impact: This is a developing area of the law, and not all courts have agreed that Title VII protects transgendered individuals. However, employers are advised that Title VII prohibits job discrimination because of perceptions about whether an individual is "masculine" or "feminine" for the employer.

Workforce Management, June 9, 2008, p. 8 -- Subscribe Now!

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