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EEOC sues two employers over fired transgender employees

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said on Thursday it has filed gender discrimination lawsuits in Michigan and Florida against employers it says discriminated against transgender employees.

In Florida, the EEOC’s Miami District Office filed a lawsuit against a Lakeland, Florida, eye clinic. The EEOC said Lakeland Eye Clinic violated the federal law by firing an employee because she is transgender. According to the lawsuit, the fired employee had performed her duties satisfactorily throughout her employment but was terminated after she began to present as a woman and informed the clinic she was transgender.

“An employee should not be denied employment opportunities because he or she does not conform to the preferred or expected gender norms or roles of the employer or co-workers,” Malcolm S. Medley, director for the EEOC’s Miami District Office said in a statement. “Protections must be afforded to such employees.”

In the Michigan case, the EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office filed suit against Detroit-based R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. According to the lawsuit, a transgender funeral director/embalmer was fired because she was transitioning from male to female.

EEOC Indianapolis Regional Attorney Laurie Young, whose jurisdiction includes Michigan, said the firing violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including that based on gender stereotyping.

“Title VII prohibits employers from firing employees because they do not behave according to the employer’s stereotypes of how men and women should act, and this includes employees who present themselves according to their gender identity,” Ms. Young said in a statement.

Each lawsuit seeks both monetary and injunctive relief.