Transgender discrimination is illegal, says U.S. Justice Department

A transgender person is someone who was born a certain sex but identifies with and lives as the opposite sex. The U.S. Department of Justice recently took the position that job discrimination against transgender people is illegal.

Specifically, the government says discrimination against transgender people amounts to “sex discrimination,” which is prohibited by federal law.

The decision means that the Department’s Civil Rights Division will be able to sue state and local public employers for discrimination on behalf of transgender individuals.

The Department can’t sue private employers. However, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can sue private employers, and it took the same position in a recent ruling.

The courts have been split on the rights of transgender people. However, many employers are being proactive in trying to prevent lawsuits, and are reviewing their discrimination, harassment, and dress code policies in response.

In a 2011 survey of transgender people, 90% said they had been harassed, mistreated or discriminated against on the job, and 47% said they had been fired or denied promotions because of their gender identity.