The Supreme Court stayed a Fourth Circuit ruling that requires schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. We are monitoring the case for its impact on employers going forward. For our past analysis on this issue, please refer to the following posts:

In recent years, state and federal courts have consistently ruled in favor of those seeking to define their gender identity.  However, the Supreme Court has yet to weigh in — a situation that is about to change as the accelerating national discussion of transgender rights finally makes its way to the Supreme Court.

In 2015, G.G., a transgender high school student attending school in Gloucester County, Virginia, challenged his school’s policy requiring students to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their genders assigned at birth.  G.G. alleged that the policy violated both the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the laws and Title IX.  The District Court ignored the constitutional claim and ruled that a 1975 regulation that allows school to provide “separate toilets, locker room, and shower facilities on the basis of sex,” barred his Title IX claim.

This April, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the lower court’s decision.  It pointed to the Department of Education’s January 7, 2015 opinion letter from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which concluded that if schools opt to separate students in restrooms based on their sex, a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.  Ultimately, a divided Fourth Circuit deferred to the Department of Education’s interpretation of its own regulations.  The Fourth Circuit’s ruling was the first by an appeals court to find that transgender students are protected under federal laws that bar sex-based discrimination.  Further, the Fourth Circuit declined to stay its ruling and remanded the case to the District Court, which issued a preliminary injunction requiring the school board to allow G.G. to use the boys’ restroom while the parties litigate the case on its merits.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Poised to Weigh in on Transgender Rights

Settlement of Sexual Orientation Case – The EEOC and a Maryland employer have settled a landmark sexual orientation discrimination case.  EEOC v. Pallet Companies d/b/a IFCO Systems NA, Inc. was filed in March 2016, and was among one of the earliest EEOC lawsuits against a private employer, alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  At the same time that the EEOC filed this case, the agency also filed suit for discrimination based on sexual orientation in Pennsylvania federal court against Scott Medical Health Center of Pittsburgh, which we reported on at the time. The Pennsylvania case is still pending.

The lawsuit alleged that employee, Yolanda Boone, was repeatedly harassed by her supervisor because of her sexual orientation.  Her supervisor allegedly made comments to her about her sexual orientation and her appearance, such as: “I want to turn you back into a woman” and “you would look good in a dress.”  It is also alleged that the supervisor “blew a kiss at her and circled his tongue at her in a suggestive manner.”  After Boone reported the incidents to management and called an employee hotline, she was fired, supposedly in retaliation.

Under the terms of the Maryland settlement, Pallet Companies will pay $202,000 to settle the case: $182,200 will be paid to Boone, and $20,000 will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s workplace equality program.  The settlement also provides that the employer will strengthen its discrimination policies by developing an employee training program that has a section on LGBT workplace issues, and it will post workplace notices informing employees that the company “will conduct its hiring and employment practices without regard” to an individual’s sexual orientation.  In addition, all employees will receive wallet cards containing the toll-free number and web address of the company’s hotline for bias complaints.

Continue Reading EEOC LGBT Cases in the News

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of North Carolina exchanged federal law suits concerning the legality of a recently enacted North Carolina law known as “H.B. 2”.  The law requires public agencies in North Carolina to restrict access to multiple occupancy bathrooms to individuals of the same “biological sex.” The law

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a 2-1 ruling in Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, No. 15-2056, finding that a transgender student has the right to sue his school board under Title IX for discrimination after they barred him from using the restroom matching his gender identity. Title

As predicted, the news in the Labor/Employment world continues to center on developments in the area of legal rights for transgender employees.  On January 21, the EEOC announced a $115,000 settlement of a complaint against a company which had been accused of discriminating against a transgender female employee.  According to the EEOC press release,