New rules protect transgender workers against discrimination

Transgender employees will be protected from workplace discrimination in the public sector, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Previously, workplace discrimination laws in the public sector excluded discrimination on the basis of a person’s gender identity, the Justice Department noted. 

But Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderArkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats Oregon legislature on the brink as Democrats push gerrymandered maps Christie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group MORE announced Thursday that the federal government’s views on this issue have “evolved over time.”

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"I have determined that the best reading of Title VII's prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” Holder wrote in a memo to DOJ officials.

Public sector workers who are gay are already protected against discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation. 

But the new rules will protect transgender workers, who until now, could be discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity.

This follows the Labor Department’s move two weeks ago to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against their employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The gender identity protections, however, will only extend to state and local government employees in the public sector.

Congress would have to act for private sector workers to receive the same protections.

Gay rights advocates praised the move to protect transgender public sector employees from workplace discrimination.

“Transgender people continue to face some of the highest levels of discrimination in the workplace,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. “We are thrilled to see the Department of Justice take this important step."