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A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows on Pride Month 2022 and the Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Bostock v. Clayton County

Each June, we celebrate Pride Month to honor the contributions of LGBTQI+ persons to our nation and to reaffirm our support for the LGBTQI+ community as we continue our work to create a more diverse, inclusive union. This month also marks the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which affirmed – as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had held several years earlier – that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Despite decades of advocacy and struggle, LGBTQI+ individuals continue to face persistent discrimination and acts of violence in America. In many instances, these attempts to undermine legal rights and protections and to inflict physical and emotional suffering are directed toward LGBTQI+ people of color, transgender people, and LGBTQI+ youth and their families. Yet, in response to this intolerance, many courageous LGBTQI+ individuals and allies continue to live by the immortal words of Bayard Rustin, a leading strategist in the civil rights movement and an advocate for the rights of Blacks and LGBTQI+ persons: “Let us be enraged by injustice, but let us not be destroyed by it.” For generations, members of the LGBTQI+ community and their allies have maintained their passion and commitment while working to combat injustice.

Over the past decade, as discussed in the EEOC’s technical assistance document and other materials available on the agency’s landing page, the Commission has taken a leadership role in establishing legal protections for LGBTQI+ workers—including the Commission’s landmark decisions in Macy v. Holder and Baldwin v. Foxx.  

The EEOC continues to vigorously enforce legal protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination, in private, state, and local employment; to resolve federal employees’ complaints of discrimination; and to advise federal agencies in protecting the workplace civil rights of LGBTQI+ applicants and employees. In fiscal year 2021, across more than 400 merit resolutions of matters that included an allegation of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, the Commission obtained approximately $9.2 million for complainants. The Commission’s investigations make clear the continued urgency of our work. The EEOC’s findings of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity involved instances of severe or pervasive harassment, retaliation, and constructive discharge, including the following:

  • In June 2021, the Commission’s Office of Federal Operations (OFO) found a hostile work environment existed based on sex when a federal agency took months to act on an employee’s request for transfer after a coworker told a supervisor and two other coworkers that it was a mistake to have hired a gay employee, that the community was “not ready” for someone of her sexual orientation, and that the coworker did not want to work with her or even sit next to her in the car because of her sexual orientation.
  • In August 2021, the EEOC filed suit against an Applebee’s franchise for allegedly subjecting a black gay employee to harassment based on his sexual orientation and race and for retaliating when he complained by substantially reducing his work hours, resulting in his constructive discharge.  
  • In September 2021, the EEOC’s OFO found that an employee was subjected to a hostile work environment based on sex where his supervisor referred to him and others as the “gay mafia,” said that “these people just won’t let it alone” when referencing an inquiry about Pride Month from an LGBTQI+ employee resource group, and commented that an applicant was gay and not a “good fit” because his personality was “too big for this office.”
  • In October 2021, through its pre-suit conciliation process, the EEOC obtained monetary relief for a transgender applicant who was not hired for a sales position because a hiring official believed he would not “mix well with the customers.”

Most recently, to advance the civil rights of LGBTQI+ people, the EEOC has taken diligent, coordinated steps within our workforce and in partnership with key stakeholders. Our agency is conducting listening sessions around the country with LGBTQI+ organizations to gain a better understanding of current challenges and to determine where to most effectively focus our resources, including outreach and education for workers and employers. In addition, to promote greater equity and inclusion for the LGBTQI+ community, the EEOC announced on Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31, 2022) that it would add a non-binary X gender marker to the voluntary demographic questions that are part of the intake process for filing a charge of discrimination. These important changes will be implemented and available to the public soon.

This month, our agency honors the strength and resilience of LGBTQI+ people in their struggle for justice and equality and continues to build on the EEOC’s history of leadership in this area. However, our work is far from finished. The EEOC is committed to advancing equal employment opportunities for all members of the LGBTQI+ community and to ensuring they receive the dignity, respect, and support they deserve in the workplace to live authentically and fully contribute to our economy and society.

Charlotte A. Burrows (she/her)