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EEOC sides with transgender employee in sex discrimination case

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled Wednesday that the Army sexually discriminated against a transgender employee when it refused to let her used the women’s bathroom.

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Tamara Lusardi, a transgender woman who works for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center in Huntsville, Ala., filed a complaint with the EEOC in March 2012 after her employer prohibited her from using the women’s restroom and her team leader continued to call her by her former male name and refer to her as “sir.” Lusardi said the center made her use a staff restroom segregated from the other employees instead.

The EEOC originally sided with the center, but on Lusardi’s appeal ruled that the Army’s decision violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. 

In the decision, the commission said the harm to Lusardi goes beyond simply denying her access to a resource open to others.

“The decision to restrict Complainant to a "single shot" restroom isolated and segregated her from other persons of her gender. It perpetuated the sense that she was not worthy of equal treatment and respect.”

The EEOC also ruled that the center created a hostile working environment for Lusardi based on her sex.  

“The Commission has held that supervisors and coworkers should use the name and gender pronoun that corresponds to the gender identity with which the employee identifies in employee records and in communications with and about the employee,” the commission said in its decision.

The ruling elicited cheers from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) applauded the EEOC for clarifying that transgender employees suffer sex discrimination when they are relegated to a separate bathroom facility.

“Employees should never have to endure a hostile work environment because of their gender,” NCLR senior staff attorney Amy Whelan said in a news release. “This decision makes clear that employers have a duty to combat sex discrimination in all of its forms and wherever it occurs.”