(San Francisco, CA, April 8, 2015)—Today, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing federal workplace anti-discrimination laws, ruled that an employer’s refusal to allow a transgender employee access to restroom facilities consistent with his or her gender identity is sex discrimination under Title VII.

The decision addressed a charge filed by Tamara Lusardi, a transgender woman who works for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.  During Ms. Lusardi’s gender transition, AMRDEC prohibited her from using the women’s restroom, relegating her instead to a single-staff restroom segregated from the other employees. One of her supervisors also repeatedly and intentionally harassed her by using her former name and male pronouns.

The EEOC ruled that AMRDEC’s decision to restrict Ms. Lusardi to a separate bathroom “isolated and segregated her from other persons of her gender” and “perpetuated the sense that she was not worthy of equal treatment and respect.”  The EEOC also found that the supervisor’s intentional use of male pronouns “compounded that discrimination and sent the message that Ms. Lusardi was unworthy of basic respect and dignity because she is a transgender individual.”  Each of these actions constituted sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.

The EEOC also found that AMRDEC could not defend its actions by arguing that other employees might be uncomfortable or upset:  “Allowing the preferences of co-workers to determine whether sex discrimination is valid reinforces the very stereotypes and prejudices that Title VII is intended to overcome.”

Ms. Lusardi is represented by the Transgender Law Center and the law firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP.

“We applaud the EEOC for clarifying that transgender employees suffer sex discrimination when they are relegated to separate bathroom facilities and harassed by other employees because of their gender identity’” said NCLR Senior Staff Attorney Amy Whelan. “Employees should never have to endure a hostile work environment because of their gender.  This decision makes clear that employers have a duty to combat sex discrimination in all of its forms and wherever it occurs.”