Gender Identity and Workplace Harassment: No, You Still Don’t Have to Take It

May 10, 2023

For many ill-informed employers, the concept of gender identity is still too unfamiliar to prompt a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy and transgender employees are left vulnerable to unfair and illegal workplace mistreatment.

If you are a transgender individual experiencing discrimination or believe your transgender colleagues are being mistreated at your place of employment, we encourage you to contact our office immediately for more information about your rights under North Carolina and federal law.

Gender Identity Discrimination

Gender identity discrimination differs from sex discrimination in that it pertains to an individual’s identification as a male or female, as opposed to an individual’s biological sex assigned at birth. Oftentimes, transgender individuals engage in gender expression designed to match their gender identity, which may involve a certain type of clothing, style of hair or other physical features.

In the workplace, gender identity discrimination can occur in any number of ways, but it must always involve some sort of adverse treatment based solely on the transgender employee’s gender identity. For example, one employer may opt not to include a transgender employee in a pivotal conference or training opportunity based on that employee’s gender expression characteristics.

This sort of line-drawing is considered unlawful mistreatment and should not be tolerated. Likewise, persistent jokes, rude behavior or taunting targeting a transgender employee is grounds for a harassment lawsuit and should not be tolerated by any member of an employment team.

Gender Identity Protections Under the Law

As noted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, No. 17-1618 (S. Ct. June 15, 2020), the Supreme Court held that “firing individuals because of their sexual orientation or transgender status violates Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination because of sex.”  In its explanation, the Court noted that “discrimination based on homosexuality or transgender status necessarily entails discrimination based on sex; the first cannot happen without the second.”  So, with respect to a person’s transgender status, if an employer terminates an employee because the individual was born a male but now uses feminine pronouns and identifies as a female, “the employer is taking action against the individual because of sex since the action would not have been taken except for the fact that the employee was originally born a male.”   

Overcoming the Stigma

Many prominent LGBTQ+ advocates have highlighted the extreme vulnerability of the transgender community due in part to the widespread misunderstanding and ignorance of this concept. This stigma often breeds prejudice, which leads to discrimination and mistreatment. For a victim of harassment or discrimination, a civil lawsuit may be able to help compensate the victim for the costs of his injuries, including reinstatement of a job position if the discrimination led to termination.

If the victim endured long-term workplace harassment, a civil lawsuit may also help recover the non-quantifiable damages of emotional turmoil or anguish associated with repeated verbal and/or physical abuse. For more information about how this process works, be sure to contact a reputable sexual harassment attorney right away.

Reach Out to a Skilled Sexual Harassment Lawyer for Help Today

If you are experiencing gender identity discrimination or harassment at your job and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact our office today.