Labor & Employment

For the first time, EEOC sues for alleged transgender discrimination

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued for alleged transgender discrimination for the first time in lawsuits against a Florida eye clinic and a Michigan funeral home.

The suits against the Lakeland Eye Clinic in Lakeland, Florida, and the Detroit-based RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes claim the companies discriminated based on sex when they fired the employees, report BuzzFeed, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press and the Miami Herald. Press releases are here and here. The BuzzFeed story includes copies of the complaints, filed last week in federal courts in Michigan and Florida.

The eye clinic did not comment when contacted by the Miami Herald, while the funeral home company did not immediately return the publications’ requests for comment.

The suit filed on behalf of funeral director and embalmer Amiee Stephens alleges she was fired in August 2013, two weeks after she informed RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes that she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female. Stephens said she planned to dress in appropriate female business attire and asked for support. When she was fired, the suit alleges, Stephens was told what she was “proposing to do” was unacceptable.

The suit filed on behalf of Brandi Branson, the director of hearing services at the Lakeland Eye Clinic, says she began wearing female attire and makeup to work in February 2011, spurring co-workers to snicker and avoid her. When confronted by her employer in April 2011, she stated that she was undergoing a gender transition from male to female.

After that, the suit says, managers and employees made derogatory comments about Branson’s appearance and “the ostracism intensified.” Only one of the eye clinic’s physicians continued to refer clients to her, the suit alleges.

Branson was told in June 2011 that her position was being eliminated and she was being fired. But the clinic hired a replacement in August 2011, according to the suit.

Hat tip to @MauraDolan.

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