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Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Transgender Status in the Workplace

Author: Lisa Pierson Weinberger, Mom, Esq.

Throughout much of the 20th century, courts routinely held that transgender individuals were not covered under federal non-discrimination statutes designed to offer protection against harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. However, the tide appears to be changing. Despite this history, courts and administrative agencies are now beginning to reject their former opinions and are interpreting federal and state antidiscrimination laws as providing employment-related protection for transgender individuals. In addition, many statewide laws and local municipal ordinances have been amended to add explicit language providing such coverage and protection for transgender status, sexual orientation and gender identity. This change in the law has a significant impact on employers' obligations to their employees, and opens the door for increased exposure and liability for those employers who do not incorporate this into their EEO policies and procedures.