Mia Macy is a transgender woman, a veteran and a former detective. She applied for a job with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) as a man; she was in transition during the background check portion and told the investigators that. Despite being told that she was virtually guaranteed to get the job, the ATF told her that funding had been cut and then filled the job with someone else.
So Macy filed a discrimination complaint. While that complaint still isn’t resolved, along the way Macy won a major victory for all transgender people across the country.
The ruling from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday found that Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender people from discrimination based on sex, a sweeping federal rule that applies to all businesses that employ over 15 people.
“The ATF tried to say Title VII didn’t cover transgender people. The ATF wanted to apply their own internal procedures,” said Mark Snyder, communications manager for the Transgender Law Center. The EEOC initially separated Macy’s complaints into two parts, significantly weakening her case. But Macy appealed, and with the Transgender Law Center’s help, won the right to be considered purely under discrimination by sex.
“This decision is binding on all EEOC offices nationwide. It is the law now.” said Snyder.
“We always believed trans people had this protection, but the ruling affirmed it,” said Snyder. “We’re thrilled. This is a game-changer.”
The decision has the possibility to make a huge impact — according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 90 percent of transgender people have experienced some form of employment discrimination; transgender people suffer from unemployment at double the national rate; 47 percent say they’ve suffered adverse effects, like being fired, not hired or denied a promotion, and 26 percent report losing a job because of their gender identity or presentation.
The EEOC ruling (available as a Scribd document here) is good reading, including passages on why limiting Title VII to a reductive view of sex — e.g. limiting legitimate discrimination cases only to when a man is preferred in place of a woman, and vice versa — is both inconsistent with the statute and with reams of precedent, including an important case, Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, in which gender expression was specifically protected (in that case, a woman discriminated against for not acting in a stereotypical “feminine” way).
While Macy’s underlying case is still pending, Transgender Law Center is confident that she’ll win, and Snyder emphasizes that a win here isn’t just good for Macy and transgender people, but for all of us who lose when the talents, skills and experience of transgender people aren’t utilized.
“Mia spent her whole life and career working to protect this country. [This discrimination] is not only wrong, but puts everyone’s safety at risk,” he said.