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EEOC files third transgender-related lawsuit

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed its third lawsuit in which it charges a firm with sex discrimination based on its alleged mistreatment of a transgendered worker.

The EEOC said Friday it has filed suit against Shoreview, Minnesota-based Deluxe Financial Services Corp., charging it with violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for allegedly subjecting employee Britney Austin to sex discrimination.

Deluxe said in a statement it has followed state and federal legal standards.

The EEOC said in its statement that Ms. Austin had performed her duties satisfactorily in the check printing and financial services firm's Phoenix office. It charged that Deluxe refused to let her use the women's restroom after she began to present at work as a woman and informed her supervisors she was transgender.

The EEOC also said supervisors and co-workers subjected Ms. Austin to a hostile work environment, including hurtful epithets and intentionally using the wrong gender pronouns to refer to her.

“A long-term, well-respected employee should not be rewarded for her years of dedicated service by being forced to face the indignity and danger of using a restroom inconsistent with her gender identity, simply because a company's management subscribes to sex stereotypes and believes co-workers may feel uncomfortable,” Rayford O. Irvin, district director for the EEOC's Phoenix district office, said in a statement. “Employee and customer preferences based on stereotypes are not a legitimate reason to discriminate.”

The company said in a statement that it “takes the safety, security and dignity of all our employees very seriously. We are disappointed in the EEOC's decision to pursue litigation in this matter and believe the agency's claims lack merit. We will defend our policies and practices, all of which align with federal and state legal standards.”

The agency has filed two other lawsuits on behalf of transgendered individuals.

In April, a Florida eye clinic agreed to pay $150,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit that charged sex discrimination against a transgender individual, while in September, the EEOC filed suit against a Detroit funeral home, charging a transgender funeral director/embalmer was fired because she was transitioning from male to female.