Trump administration says transgender workers are not protected by anti-discrimination law

Jeff Sessions Just Reversed A Policy That Protects Transgender Workers From Discrimination

Jeff Sessions Just Reversed A Policy That Protects Transgender Workers From Discrimination

United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions has directed the Justice Department to reverse a federal policy protecting transgender workers from discrimination.

"Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status", says the memo, obtained by BuzzFeed News on Thursday.

Mr. Sessions's move means the Justice Department will no longer side with transgender plaintiffs in workplace discrimination lawsuits invoking the Civil Rights Act.

Currently, there is no federal law that explicitly prohibits discrimination against transgender employees in the workplace, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has previously argued that transgender workers are protected in the workplace as a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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As BuzzFeed News highlights, Sessions' directive also includes a particularly disturbing sentiment: that this will be the government's position in the present and future under the Trump administration. This spring, the departments of justice and education rescinded the Obama-era guidance instructing schools to give trans students unfettered access to bathrooms matching their gender identities. Sessions's Justice Department is intent on kicking progress in the teeth: In his mind, Title VII specifically protects "men and women", meaning that the Justice Department could find itself up fighting its own employees in court.

"The Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals", he added.

Sessions wrote in a memo that a landmark 1964 civil rights law does not apply to gender identity, despite former President Barack Obama expanding that definition when he was in office. "Although federal law, including Title VII, provides various protections to transgender individuals, Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on gender identity per se".

Transgender people face extraordinary discrimination and harassment every day.

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DOJ spokesperson Devin O'Malley defended the decision, asserting that Sessions was restoring Title VII back to congressional interpretation. Unfortunately, the last administration abandoned that fundamental principle, which necessitated today's action. "Sessions is openly directing the [Justice] Department to ignore their responsibilities in protecting the civil rights of all Americans".

Sessions said that interpretation went beyond what Congress intended.

Rights groups and legal experts quickly refuted Sessions' analysis and expressed concerns that the memo would lead the members of the department to shirk their duty to protect workers from discrimination.

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