Companies Oppose Government’s Retraction of Transgender Rights

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. November 5, 2018
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​More than 50 companies want the U.S. federal government to uphold legal protections for transgender individuals, according to a recent letter opposing actions from the Trump administration to limit those protections.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google were among the companies signing the letter, which stated, "We oppose any administrative and legislative efforts to erase transgender protections through reinterpretation of existing laws and regulations. We also fundamentally oppose any policy or regulation that violates the privacy rights of those that identify as transgender, gender nonbinary or intersex."

We've gathered articles on the administration's positions on transgender rights from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

Companies Point to Fortune 500 Policies

Dozens of federal courts have affirmed the rights of transgender people, said the Nov. 1 letter from the companies. They noted that diversity and inclusion are good for business and that discrimination imposes enormous productivity costs and results in undue burdens. The companies said they consequently have expanded inclusion for transgender people across corporate America. More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies have gender identity protections and two-thirds have transgender-inclusive health care coverage, they stated. Although many of the companies signing the letter are in the tech sector, some—such as American Airlines, Ben & Jerry's and MGM Resorts International—are not.

(CNET)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Employing Transgender Workers]

HHS Is Calling for Change

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reportedly wants to define a person's sex as an unchanging characteristic determined at birth. The department now is considering how to handle an Obama administration regulation under the Affordable Care Act that included gender identity bias as a prohibited form of sexual discrimination. One court barred the government from enforcing the rule and the administration has been weighing how to replace it. Roger Severino, the director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, has criticized the Obama administration's expansion of transgender rights. But some in the Trump administration are pushing back against the department's efforts to roll back transgender rights.

(The Washington Post)

Title VII Doesn't Protect Transgender People, DOJ Says

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) wrote in a brief to the Supreme Court on Oct. 24 that companies may discriminate against employees based on their gender identity without violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. An appeals court ruled last year that Title VII prohibits transgender bias, the first appeals court to reach this conclusion. The DOJ and 16 states have asked the high court to reverse the decision, asserting that Congress didn't intend gender identity bias to be covered by the law. The American Civil Liberties Union will represent a transgender funeral director who alleged she was fired because of her gender identity if the high court decides to review the case.

(Bloomberg)

Attorney General Announced Stance Last Year

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum last year instructing the Justice Department that federal law does not protect transgender individuals. That action reversed the Justice Department's stance since December 2014, when then-U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that transgender individuals were protected from workplace discrimination under the law. Sessions noted that while federal law provides various protections to transgender individuals, it does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

(SHRM Online)

Education Department Repealed Memo on Bathroom Access

Transgender individuals have been seeking access to restrooms that match their gender identity. Many businesses opposed North Carolina's law, now repealed, requiring individuals to use the bathroom in public buildings that matches the gender on their birth certificates. However, the U.S. Education and Justice departments last year repealed a memo that ordered federally funded schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms aligned with their gender identity.

(SHRM Online and The Washington Post)

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