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A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows for Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20, 2021)

On November 20, we will observe Transgender Day of Remembrance – a sobering day to recognize and honor those who have lost their precious lives to anti-transgender violence. At the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), we stand in solidarity with the transgender community and their families to raise awareness about and renew our efforts to address the discrimination and violence that transgender individuals continue to face. This year alone, there have been at least 45 reported violent killings of transgender or gender nonconforming people in America, marking 2021 as the deadliest year on record for members of these communities. Sadly, given the grim reality that these deaths often go unreported or misreported, the real number of victims is likely to be much higher. And tragically, transgender women and girls of color are at particular risk and make up a disproportionate number of the victims of anti-transgender harm and violence.

As a result of fearless leadership from advocates and supporters, our nation has taken significant strides in the direction of stronger legislative protections to ensure the safety and freedom of gender diverse communities. We owe a huge debt to the community activism and strong leadership from Congress that resulted in passage of the  Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal hate crime protections to include gender, gender identity, disability, and sexual orientation. And we welcome and applaud the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision, which that federal law bars employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Throughout the years, moreover, champions of transgender equality have made diligent efforts to educate various audiences and collaborate with educators, law enforcement officials, policy makers and others, toward the goal of fostering a society where transgender and non-binary people can live openly, safely, and authentically.

Yet we all know that there is much more to be done. Transgender and non-binary people still experience senseless acts of violence, injustice, oppression, and discrimination across the activities of their daily lives, whether in housing, health care, education, or employment. Indeed, in a recent survey, 48.8% of transgender employees reported experiencing discrimination (being fired or not hired) based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. This discrimination has a devastating impact on the ability of transgender and gender nonconforming persons to earn a living, contribute to society, and pursue their dreams. 

We at the EEOC are committed to addressing such discrimination and intolerance, particularly in the areas of employment and economic opportunity, and to advancing equality for all LGBTQI+ people in the workplace. For example, as recently as last month, the EEOC worked cooperatively with Frizzell Furniture, a furniture retailer with locations in northern Minnesota, to reach a resolution after our investigation concluded that Frizzell rejected a job applicant for a sales position because the applicant was transgender. A hiring official informed the applicant that he would not “mix well with the customers;” our settlement makes clear and affirms the longstanding principle that federal law does not permit discriminatory employment decisions based on customer preference. The settlement provides relief not only for the transgender applicant, but for Frizzell applicants and employees going forward; the company has committed to providing training to its employees and revising its policies and practices related to hiring decisions to prevent gender identity discrimination in the future. 

In addition, on a national level, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking critical action to combat anti-transgender discrimination and denial of economic opportunity, which often places transgender and gender nonconforming people in higher-risk environments and threatens their very survival. I’m delighted to share that the EEOC is participating in a first-of-its-kind interagency working group that the White House has established to address the escalating crisis of anti-transgender stigma and violence. Please expect more details about the federal approach regarding transgender safety, opportunity, and inclusion in the days ahead.

In these unprecedented times, as we begin to recover from the current pandemic, our nation is increasingly focused on achieving progress and leading with compassion. The prominent equal rights advocate, Emmy-winning producer, and Emmy-nominated actress Laverne Cox once said, “There are lessons in everything. The bad, the good. Our job is to listen, and to continue to learn, so that maybe we get better at this. Maybe get better at life.”

I am honored to lead this agency as we continue listening, learning, and working toward a more just and equal future. In observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance, the EEOC is committed to disrupting the vicious cycle of discrimination and injustice against transgender individuals and to advancing equal opportunity for all people.