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A Message from the Chair

Post from Chair Jenny R. Yang - June 2015

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month

In this month when we proudly celebrate our family, friends and work colleagues who are members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) continues its commitment to equal treatment for LGBT individuals. The agency recently filed its third lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of gender identity/transitioning/transgender status. The agency also issued a resource for workers and job applicants who may face discrimination for those reasons. I'm confident Frank Kameny would have applauded those actions.

Mr. Kameny, a World War II veteran with a Ph.D. from Harvard, worked as an astronomer with the Army Map Service in Washington, D.C., until he was fired for being gay in 1957. At that time, the civil rights movement was burgeoning and anti-discrimination laws were in the works. But homosexuality was considered a mental illness, and a federal policy described homosexuals as a security risk. Mr. Kameny became a pioneer in his quest for justice and has the distinction of being honored this week with his induction into the Department of Labor's Hall of Honor.

He challenged his firing and filed appeal after appeal, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1961 that the policies against employing homosexuals "constitute a discrimination no less illegal and no less odious than discrimination based upon religious or racial grounds."  His case was dismissed, but it sparked a movement for LGBT civil rights. Mr. Kameny died in 2011. But before then he received a formal apology from the Office of Personnel Management for the discrimination he endured, and he joined President Obama at the signing of a Presidential Memorandum providing benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers.

The breadth of protections available to federal workers and applicants who experience sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination is the subject of an updated guide  that the EEOC, the U.S Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board released in early June. Originally issued more than a decade ago, the revised booklet reflects major developments in laws addressing LGBT issues in recent years. It outlines rights as well as processes for remedying discrimination. 

Also in June, the EEOC filed suit against Deluxe Financial Services for violating federal law by subjecting a transgender worker to sex discrimination. The agency alleged that after a long-term employee, with a record of satisfactory performance, presented at work as a woman and informed her supervisors that she was transgender, Deluxe refused to let her use the women's restroom. In addition, supervisors and co-workers used hurtful epithets and intentionally used the wrong gender pro­nouns to refer to her.

Consistent with federal case law, the EEOC has issued several federal sector decisions finding that complaints of gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination can be brought through the federal sector EEO complaint process under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In the private sector, the EEOC has filed lawsuits and amicus briefs under Title VII, challenging alleged sex discrimination and successfully has conciliated charges involving these issues.   

To learn more about the EEOC's efforts on behalf of LGBT individuals, see "What You Should Know about EEOC and the Enforcement Protections for LGBT Workers" on our website.  

As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month, let us honor Frank Kameny and the other courageous champions of LGBT individuals by continuing our resolve to achieve workplace equality for all. 

This post from Chair Jenny R. Yang is the sixth in a series of messages highlighting the EEOC's work