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A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows for 2024 Pride Month

Pride Month is a time to celebrate the progress that the LGBTQI+ community and its allies have achieved through decades of advocacy, courage, and determination. It is also an occasion to recognize the many contributions that LGBTQI+ individuals make in our communities and workplaces every day, reflect on present challenges, and reaffirm our commitment to promoting inclusion and equal opportunity for everyone. 

At the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), protecting workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is a core part of our work. In the last fiscal year alone, the EEOC recovered approximately $13.5 million in monetary benefits to resolve charges alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. That total monetary recovery is an all-time record for the EEOC since the agency began tracking this number more than a decade years ago.

The EEOC’s commitment to protecting LGBTQI+ workers is reflected in our Strategic Enforcement Plan, which will guide the agency’s work for the next five fiscal years. Importantly, the Plan expands the category of vulnerable and historically underserved workers to include LGBTQI+ individuals, for whom the recognition of their rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came very late in the now 60-year life of this landmark law. The Supreme Court recognized in 2020 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. But the recency of that victory reminds us that LGBTQI+ workers did not receive the statute’s full protections for decades, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination.

The EEOC remains on the front lines of enforcing Title VII’s protections for LGBTQI+ workers and has secured several noteworthy case resolutions in 2024, including in EEOC v. T.C. Wheelers, Inc. (New York) (gender identity harassment); EEOC v. Sandia Transportation (New Mexico) (sexual orientation harassment); EEOC v. TA Dedicated, Inc. et al. (Ohio) (sexual orientation harassment); EEOC v. J.H.S. Holdings, LLC et al. (Tennessee) (sexual orientation harassment); EEOC v. Aged Artisans LLC (Hawaii) (sexual orientation harassment); and a public conciliation agreement resolving a charge that alleged harassment of a gender non-conforming supervisor at a nursing facility in Washington state. Building on those successes, the Commission recently filed suit against a hog farm in southern Illinois where a transgender employee was harassed based on her gender identity and announced today the filing of two new lawsuits seeking relief for workers who were subjected to harassment based on their sexual orientation.   

As the allegations in those cases make clear, harassment in the workplace remains a serious problem, including for LGBTQI+ workers. In an effort to promote safe and respectful workplaces and to assist employers with preventing harassment, the EEOC recently released an Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace, which addresses workplace harassment under EEOC-enforced laws, including harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Commission has also addressed the rights of LGBTQI+ workers in two recent federal sector decisions.

  • In Barrett V. v. Department of Agriculture, EEOC Appeal No. 2019005478 (March 7, 2024), the Commission held that the agency was not required to grant the complainant’s request for a religious exemption from mandatory training about the need to treat all customers and employees with courtesy and respect, including members of the LGBTQI+ community. The training, which was designed to promote compliance with equal employment opportunity laws and the agency’s standards of conduct, did not require the complainant to profess support for values that were contrary to his religious beliefs.
  • Finally, in Lawrence v U.S. Office of Personnel Management, EEOC Appeal No. 0120162065 (May 30, 2024), the Commission held that the agency’s 2013 and 2014 contracts for a health insurance plan that generally excluded from coverage “[s]ervices, drugs, or supplies related to sex transformations . . . ,” which resulted in denial of coverage for medical treatment for gender dysphoria, discriminated against a retired federal employee on the basis of sex. Starting with the 2016 plan year, the agency no longer allows carriers to put that type of general exclusion in health insurance plans for federal employees.

This work is both a sign of progress and a sobering reminder of the ongoing need to protect LGBTQI+ workers from discrimination in the workplace. The EEOC’s leadership and vigorous enforcement in this area will continue to reflect our abiding commitment to safe, respectful, and inclusive workplaces where everyone has an opportunity to thrive. 


Charlotte A. Burrows (she/her/hers)


U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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