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PRESS RELEASE
7-19-16

EEOC Sues Rent-A-Center for Sex Discrimination Against Transgender Employee

Assistant Manager of Rantoul Store Was Fired Because of Her Gender Identity, Federal Agency Charges

URBANA, Ill. - Rent-A-Center violated federal civil rights law by discharging an employee from its Rantoul, Ill., store because she is transgender, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today. Rent-A-Center owns and operates more than 3,000 stores across the United States, offering furniture, electronics, appliances and computers through rent-to-own agreements.

According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago, the EEOC's pre-suit administrative investigation revealed that the company's managers disapproved of the employee's gender transition and found a pretext for firing her.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. In 2012, in a previous case involving a job applicant at a federal agency, the EEOC ruled that discrimination against employees or applicants because they are transgender, because of their gender identity, and/or because they have transitioned (or intend to transition) is sex discrimination and violates Title VII.

EEOC filed suit yesterday against Rent-A-Center after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency's conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. Rent-A-Center East, Inc., Civil Action No. 16 cv 2222, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Urbana Division, and was assigned to U.S. District Judge Colin Stirling Bruce. The government's litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire and supervised by EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Gregory Gochanour.

"All people deserve the opportunity to earn a living and be judged on the quality of their work, rather than on sex-based considerations," said John Hendrickson, the EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago. "That includes transgender employees, and the EEOC is committed to making sure such individuals' rights under Title VII are protected."

Coverage of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as sex discrimination under Title VII is one of the priority issues identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan. Information about the EEOC's efforts to address gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination is available on the agency's website. Gender identity means a person's inner sense of his or her own gender, which may or may not match the sex the person was assigned at birth.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.