Saks & Co. has filed a federal motion to have an ex-employee's discrimination case dismissed, arguing that "transsexuals are not a protected class under Title VII."
The plaintiff, a transgender woman named Leyth Jamal, is a former Saks employee who was allegedly told to "separate her home life from her work life" by displaying more gender-normative behaviors (i.e. dressing and acting like a man); she alleges that she was terminated for speaking up.
According to Bloomberg, Saks's motion, filed on Dec. 29th in the Southern District of Texas, "denies the allegations but also counters that 'Although Plaintiff's discrimination claim is also couched in terms of 'gender' discrimination, Plaintiff's Complaint makes clear that the gravamen of Plaintiff's claims is discrimination based on Plaintiff's status as a transsexual,' and thus not covered by the Civil Rights Act."
In a slimy, offensive, and very ill-advised move, Saks's attorney uses the term "[sic]" when referring to Jamal's claims (i.e., that she was mistreated "because of 'her [sic] gender'"). Although Saks claims in the filing that "it is well established that transsexuals are not a protected by Title VII," Bloomberg reports:
Saks's motion came days after a Dec. 15 memo from Attorney General Eric Holder announcing it's now DOJ policy that transgender people are protected under Title VII. Holder's announcement followed a 2012 ruling by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that gender identity discrimination is a form of illegal sex discrimination.
But, as Holder noted in his memo, courts have come down on both sides of the question. And as Saks's filing ("[sic]" and all) illustrates, the EEOC's or DOJ's determination lacks the full legal force of a Supreme Court ruling or a federal statute.
In other words, Bloomberg notes, until Congress passes concrete legislation like The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (which, along with basically every other piece of worthwhile legislation, failed to pass through the House in 2013), the trans community will continue to be uniquely vulnerable to the prejudiced whims of their employers.
Image via Associated Press