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Ruling allows transgender woman to sue for job discrimination

April 24, 2012 |  3:50 pm

A former soldier and police officer who transitioned from male to female has been allowed to proceed with a complaint against the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives  alleging job discrimination based on gender.

A ruling this week by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is being seen as clarifying that rules of employment law apply to transgender people and that they may file complaints with the commission under federal anti-discrimination statutes.

In an email to The Times, EEOC spokeswoman Christine Nazer wrote that the ruling is now “the EEOC’s position, and we will apply it in all our enforcement activities” under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which prohibits job discrimination based on race, sex, religion and national origin.

Up to now, EEOC enforcement of federal employment law across the country "has been inconsistent” when it comes to transgender people, said Jennifer Pizer, legal director of the Williams Institute, a think tank on issues related to gender and the law at UCLA Law School.

“There has been confusion because this is an area of law that has evolved over time,” Pizer said. “There is now a national understanding from this administration that this protection exists.”

The case involves Mia Macy, a transgender woman and former Phoenix police officer who applied for a ballistics job at an ATF laboratory in Walnut Creek. Macy applied for the position in 2010 and was accepted, pending a background check.

Macy said she applied for the job as a man, but meanwhile went through a transition to female. Macy said the ATF lab officials were notified of her transition.

Macy said she and her wife moved to the Bay Area. Then she was told the job had been eliminated due to budget cuts. Later, she learned that the job had been filled.

With lawyers from the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center, Macy filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging sex and gender discrimination in 2011.

The agency responded by denying the complaint, saying that transgender people were not covered under EEOC complaint procedures.

The case, as well as clarifying the agency’s national policy, allows Macy’s complaint to go forward, said Matt Wood, attorney at the Transgender Law Center.

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-- Sam Quinones

twitter.com/samquinones7

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