Federal Judge Blocks Guidance on LGBTQ Workers

Leah Shepherd By Leah Shepherd July 20, 2022
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sign for gender neutral restroom

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee last week temporarily invalidated guidance from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that held that LGBTQ employees are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

The guidance said transgender workers have the right to use a bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity and the right to be free of harassment, including intentional and repeated use of the wrong pronouns. The judge blocked the guidance because it interfered with states' sovereign authority to enforce their state laws.

20 Attorneys General Sued

In State of Tennessee v. the United States Department of Education, attorneys general from 20 states sued to block the Biden administration's guidance, and the federal judge agreed. The guidance came after a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that expanded the legal definition of sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity in employment situations. Several Republican-led states, including Tennessee, had laws on the books that appeared to violate the guidance.

(Tennessee Lookout)

Employees Can Sue

While the EEOC and the Department of Education are now blocked from suing, individuals can still sue their employers for failing to call transgender workers by their correct pronouns or give them access to bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. Employers cannot fire somebody because of gender identity or sexual orientation.

(Bloomberg News)

Equal Treatment

In Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia in June 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court found that LGBTQ employees must be treated equally to other employees in employment decisions, including pay and hiring. This rule applies to employers with 15 or more workers.  

(SHRM Online)

Stopping Discrimination

The EEOC's guidance said that if a company has separate bathrooms, showers, or locker rooms for men and women, then workers must be allowed to use the facility corresponding to their gender identity. Companies with unisex restrooms can continue to allow use by anyone. An employer cannot use the anxiety, confusion or discomfort of co-workers to justify discriminatory policies.

(National Law Review)

Benefits of Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

If a work location offers only gendered bathrooms, it might make employees feel uncomfortable and unrecognized. An office that has gender-neutral bathrooms fosters an inclusive environment that shows that the company cares about diversity. It also demonstrates that a company doesn't just tolerate workers' differences, but also affirms them. It sends the message that the organization respects and values every person for who they are and what they contribute, not by what sex they were assigned at birth or their gender identity.

(SHRM Online)

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