US Reinterprets Law to Prohibit Workplace Discrimination Against Transgender Workers

Attorney General Eric Holder
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Attorney General Eric Holder
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department has come to a different understanding of a law that governs whether it can penalize workplace discrimination against transgender people. On Thursday it announced that it will now be able to bring legal claims on behalf of transgender employees who say they’ve been discriminated against “by state and local public employers” based on their sexual identity, the Associated Press reported.


It’s a bold and clear move to “explicitly prohibit workplace discrimination against transgender people,” a memo released by Attorney General Eric Holder stated. It restricts the previous legal maneuvering that the Justice Department took to steer clear of discrimination suits that pivoted around an employee’s gender status.

“In defending lawsuits, the federal government also will no longer take the position that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which bans sex discrimination, does not protect against workplace discrimination on the basis of gender status,” AP report explained.

“The federal government’s approach to this issue has also evolved over time,” Holder wrote in the memo, and went on to say that his new position was based on the “most straightforward reading” of the law.

The president signaled his support for transgender people earlier this year.

“The memo released Thursday is part of a broader Obama administration effort to afford workplace protection for transgender employees. In July, President Barack Obama ordered employment protection for gay and transgender employees who work for the U.S. government or for companies holding federal contracts,” AP reported.

With regard to jurisdiction and where the reinterpretation of this law applies: “The memo covers all components of the Justice Department as well as all U.S. attorneys’ offices. The Justice Department does not have authority to sue private employers, and the new memo does not affect that,” AP explained.

Read more at the Associated Press.