The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided on April 20, 2012, that discrimination against a federal employee because of transgender status, or gender identity, is prohibited by Title VII. Although Colorado state law has banned such discrimination for years, as the definition of "sexual orientation" discrimination includes discrimination based on "a person's orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status or an employer's perception thereof," federal courts have been divided on the question of whether it is prohibited by Title VII. Part of the difficulty is that sexual orientation discrimination is not covered by the federal law.
Title VII cases by federal agencies may be adjudicated before the EEOC. The case triggering this administrative decision was filed by a police detective of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The detective applied and interviewed for a transfer to a new location, and was twice assured that she would be granted the position she sought. However, shortly after the detective disclosed she was transitioning from being a man to a woman, she was told that the position had been eliminated. Later, the employer changed its explanation, saying that the position had been awarded to another applicant. The EEOC took the opportunity to publicly declare that Title VII reached the alleged discrimination, in part because of unlawful, actionable "gender stereotyping."
The EEOC's decision is not the end of the matter, by any means, but reflects the agency's not-unexpected position and may signify the agency's priority handling of such cases.