Claims of workplace discrimination against transgender people will now be covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Attorney General Eric Holder announced in a memo released Thursday.
“This important shift will ensure that the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extended to those who suffer discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status,” Holder said. “This will help to foster fair and consistent treatment for all claimants. And it reaffirms the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of all American.”
Under the Bush administration, the Justice Department had previously stated the civil rights law did not cover discrimination based on transgender status, the Associated Press reported.
This new interpretation allows the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to file Title VII claims against state and local public employers on behalf of transgender individuals. The department currently does not have the authority to file against private employers.
“The federal government’s approach to this issue has also evolved over time,” Holder wrote, adding that President Barack Obama, in July, had ordered protections against gender-based discrimination for gay and transgender government employees or contractors.
Gay rights advocates applauded the DOJ’s reversal on the issue.
“This is a huge step forward for transgender litigants and will have an extremely positive impact in cases involving discrimination against transgender employees,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.