The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently issued a ground-breaking decision holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against transgender employees and job applicants.  The EEOC decision followed an administrative complaint filed by Mia Macy, who alleged that she was turned down for a contract job at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after she informed a hiring official that she was transitioning gender from male to female.  Macy’s complaint stated that she was discriminated against on the basis of “my sex, gender identity (transgender woman) and on the basis of sex stereotyping.”  After some deliberation about how Macy’s claim should be characterized and whether it was covered by Title VII, the EEOC noted that Macy was “clear that she believes she was not hired for the position as a result of making her transgender status known.”  Ultimately, the EEOC concluded that “intentional discrimination against a transgender individual because that person is transgender is, by definition, discrimination ‘based on . . . sex,’ and such discrimination therefore violates Title VII.”

The Macy decision represents a significant change in how the EEOC views claims of discrimination brought by transgender individuals.  As a result, employers should consider revising their policies to conform to this important precedent.  In addition, employers should train their managers on how to respond when applicants or employees communicate their intent to undergo a gender transition.